European Women's Lobby

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The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is an NGO founded in 1990 and the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. As of November 2009, EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU member states and the three candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide bodies, representing a total of more than 2500 organisations.

With a Secretariat based in Brussels, Belgium, the EWL is one of the longest-standing European level NGOs, and works closely with European Institutions and civil society partners. At the international level, the EWL has consultative status at the Council of Europe and the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and participates regularly in the activities of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The EWL's mission is to work towards the promotion and respect for women’s human rights, by supporting diversity among women and equality between women and men. The EWL seeks to voice the concerns of its member organisations across Europe by means of active policy and advocacy work, project-management, monitoring and awareness-raising across different policy areas. These include women’s economic and social position, women in decision-making, sexual and reproductive health and rights, immigration, integration and asylum. The EWL, through its European Policy Action Centre on Violence Against Women (EPAC-VAW), also works to combat all forms of violence against women. The EWL's EPAC-VAW also manages a dedicated European Observatory on this issue. Furthermore, the EWL supports the use of gender mainstreaming for the effective incorporation of a women's rights perspective into all European policies.


In November 1987 in London 120 women, members of 85 organisations representing 50 millions individual members, came together and adopted two resolutions. The first called for the ‘creation of a structure for influence, open to all interested women’s organisations, to exert pressure on European and national institutions to ensure better defence and representation of women’s interest’. In a second resolution, the delegates called upon the European Commission to ‘lend its support for the organisation in early 1988 of a meeting with a view to the implementation of such a structure’. Support was granted and the European Women’s Lobby and its secretariat in Brussels were formally established in 1990. The EWL was founded in 1990 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom national coordinations and 17 large European-wide women’s organisations.

At the time just twelve countries formed the European Union, then known as the European Communities (EC). Over the years, as new Member States joined the EC, new national co-ordinations became members of the EWL. While the EU enlarged to countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the EWL established links and cooperation with women’s organisations in these countries.

The EWL currently has national co-ordinations in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. 21 European-wide member organisations are also members of the EWL. All these represent approximately 2500 direct member organisations.

The European Women’s Lobby was created in response to a growing awareness of the need to defend women’s interests at the European level since:

  • Equality between women and men is one of the missions of the European Union, which has a strong competence to adopt legislation in this area affecting all women and men living in Europe.
  • The scope of the European Union’s activities were and continue to be extending and affect areas with a direct effect on women’s daily lives, particularly with the establishment of the internal market.
  • It became urgent for women and their organisations to participate in the programmes established by the Union and to get acquainted with European legislation affecting them.
  • The creation of such an organisation and its designation of lobbying also corresponds to the particular character of the European-level decision-making process, which allows space for the creation of many organisations, founded to represent all types of interest groups and categories of the public (including various economic sectors as well as trade unions, professional and social grouping).
  • These organisations were responding to a real need on the part of the European institutions. Contrary to perceived ideas, the number of European officials is low, with only around 24000 people comprising the whole of the European Commission for example. The institutions therefore often call on experts in the course of their work, due in particular to the diversity of the Member States’ people and legislation.
  • As decision-makers within the European institutions are not directly elected by the citizens, with the exception of the European Parliament, the creation of and organisation such as EWL also corresponds to the need to fill the democratic gap between the EU institutions and the citizens.


The European Women’s Lobby, through its member organisations, aims:

  • To support the active involvement of women in working to achieve equality between women and men ensuring the representation of women form different parts of the European region.
  • To support national members through information, lobbying resources and training to actively engage with EU policy shaping and implementation of legislation at national level.
  • Through analysis, evaluation and monitoring to provide regular input on all areas of EU policy development and implementation that affect women’s lives and on the promotion of equality between women and men with specific reference to the Roadmap for equality between women and men [1] and to the United Nation Beijing Platform for Action on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.[2]
  • To monitor and raise awareness about the development and implementation of gender mainstreaming in order to ensure the full integration of women’s rights, interests and perspective in all areas of EU policy.
  • To take into account the needs and perspective of different groups of women, and the diverse experiences of women at all stages of their life cycle. These actions take place both in its internal policy and organisational development as well as in developing partnerships and joint working relationships with organisations that represent the many women that face multiple discrimination in the European Union and globally.
  • To increase the number of women in decision making positions of power within the media industry. Currently only one third of those positions in the public sector are held by women and only one fourth of these positions are held by women in the private sector. Empowering women to take on those roles would lead to a more equal representation of sexualization of men and women in the media in Europe because currently mainly men are dictating what the media puts out.

Policy areas[edit]

  • Women in Decision Making [2]
  • Social Policy and Employment[3]
  • European Gender Equality Policies and Legislations[4]
  • Women's Diversity and Anti-Discrimination[5]
  • Migration and Asylum[6]
  • Fundamental Rights within the European Union[7]
  • Revision of European Treaties[8]
  • International Action for Human Rights/United Nations[9]
  • Violence Against Women [10]
  • Women and the Media


  1. ^ European Commission Roadmap for equality between women and men 2006-2010 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2008. 
  2. ^ United Nation Beijing Platform for Action on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [1]

External links[edit]

  • European Women's Lobby website
  • European Policy Action Centre on Violence Against Women website [11]
  • European Women's Lobby 50/50 Campaign 'No Modern European Democracy without Gender Equality' [12] - The 50/50 Campaign for Democracy led by the EWL in 2008-2009 seeks to ensure the equal representation of women and men in the European Institutions.
  • European Campaign for a strong new United Nations Women’s agency [13]
  • Nordic Baltic project website [14] - The Nordic-Baltic Pilot Project is a three-year programme that aims to strengthen the cooperation and develop concrete activities to support and assist women victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the region.

European Institutions[edit]