What is NWL

The Norwegian Women’s Lobby (NWL) works for the human rights of girls and women in all their diversity, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against all girls and women and to promote a gender-equal society. NWL brings together feminist and women’s rights NGOs and experts on women’s human rights in Norway. NWL works on the basis of the CEDAW Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and other human rights instruments and policy frameworks concerning women’s human rights and gender equality. NWL monitors the implementation of the CEDAW Convention in Norway and works to promote the convention’s visibility and relevance in society.

Our history

NWL was founded in 2014 on the initiative of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights (NKF), Norway’s oldest and preeminent women’s and girls’ rights organization—that was itself founded by Gina Krog and Hagbart Berner in 1884. NWL’s establishment was initiated by NKF President Margunn Bjørnholt with the support of former NKF Presidents Karin Bruzelius and Torild Skard.

NWL and NKF President Margunn Bjørnholt (right) with former NKF President Torild Skard, Beijing+20 NGO forum in Geneva, Palais des Nations, 2014, a few months after NWL’s establishment. Henrik Sørensen’s mural “The Dream of Peace” in the background.

For NKF the establishment of NWL represented a continuation of a long-standing tradition of founding other organizations. NKF initiated the establishment of the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association (Sanitetskvinnene; 1896), what is now Sex og Politikk (1966/69) and the Forum for Women and Development or FOKUS (1995) with its predecessors. Since the demise of NKF’s former national umbrella organization—the Norwegian National Women’s Council, founded by Gina Krog in 1904—the women’s movement in Norway had been without an umbrella organization with a general and Norwegian focus.

In the spring of 2013, NKF’s leadership began formulating plans for NWL, aiming to create an inclusive and representative umbrella organization focused on the human rights of all girls and women. NKF’s executive board approved the initiative in the summer of 2013 and NKF invited other organizations as participants that autumn. NWL was formally founded at NKF’s premises at Majorstuen on 27 January 2014, when Bjørnholt was elected as its first President. The planning team, consisting of Bjørnholt, Bruzelius, and H. Paus, played crucial roles in devising the organization, its bylaws, political platform, and strategic plans, and in building the organization. In 2017 law professor Ragnhild Hennum became NWL President.

– Finally! It is very important that so many women’s organisations now unite to work for a strengthened and better gender equality situation in Norway

Sunniva Ørstavik, Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, on NWL’s establishment in 2014

The establishment of NWL was in line with the recommendations of the government-appointed Gender Equality Commission. The commission found that there was a lack of a consultative forum between the government and organizations working for gender equality. Its chair Hege Skjeie served as a member of NWL’s newly formed expert committee from 2016, alongside Bruzelius, Anne Hellum, Cathrine Holst, and others. To some extent NWL also represented a continuation of NKF’s work on the CEDAW Convention. On an international level NWL was also inspired by the European Women’s Lobby.

From 2014 NWL set out to increase awareness and understanding of the CEDAW, enhance the participation and influence of women’s organizations in political decision-making processes and address gaps or areas where gender equality efforts were lacking, such as the incorporation of a gender perspective in public budgets (gender budgeting).

In 2014 NWL reached out to the Conservative-led government and political parties, and participated in a hearing in the Storting, asking for government funding. As a result the Socialist Left Party (SV) called for NWL to receive government funding that year.

Norway’s largest women’s organization, the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association (Sanitetskvinnene), with 43,000 members—itself founded by NKF in 1896—joined NWL in 2020.

NWL participated in the Beijing+20 NGO forum in Geneva in 2014, has been represented in the official Norwegian delegation (appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) since 2015 and submitted its first shadow report to the CEDAW Committee in 2017, written and coordinated by Bruzelius. In 2018 NWL, FOKUS and four other NGOs organized the traditional torchlight parade in Oslo in honor of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, who received the award for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. In 2018, at the initiative of NWL, our board member Rachel Eapen Paul was elected as a member of GREVIO, the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.