Our history

Kvinna till Kvinna's goodwill ambassador Linnéa Claeson with our partner Kosovo Gender Studies Centre. Photo: Majlinda Hoxha
Janneti, participant in Empower Rwanda's programme for teen mothers, and her daughter. Photo: Gloria Powell

30 years for women's rights

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation started very much as an act of solidarity, out of the need to do something. From the very beginning, we knew there were organisations in the Former Yugoslavia that worked to address the horrific consequences of the war and supported women who were victims of violence, including sexual violence, as well as  women refugees and internally displaced women. These organisations knew best what was needed and what we could support them with.

Since then, Kvinna till Kvinna has grown considerably. Today, we work with more than 100 women’s rights organisations—not just in the Balkans, but in conflict-affected areas across the world.

Read about 2003–2012 and 2013–2022 »

Margareta Winberg and other female politicians in Stockholm in 1993.

1993: the start of it all

Our work starts in 1993, when reports of mass rapes during the wars in Former Yugoslavia reach Sweden.

“Genocide is happening in the heart of Europe. Powerless, we’ve stood by. Now, the time has come to put an end to this war! That is why we are launching a call to action: Kvinna till Kvinna.” – Op-ed in Dagens Nyheter

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation is founded in 1993, when reports of mass rapes during the wars in Former Yugoslavia reach Sweden. The Swedish peace and women’s movements make a joint appeal under the name of “Kvinna till Kvinna” (Woman to Woman) and hold a series of fundraising initiatives to support women’s rights organisations in the Balkans. Their call to action triggers a massive response. It is the start of Kvinna till Kvinna.

By September 1993, we have raised one million SEK. This makes it possible to travel to the conflict-affected Western Balkans, and to start supporting women’s organisations in the region.

1994: 20,000 packages to women in the Balkans

This is the year that we start the campaign for Kvinnopaketen (women’s parcels)—a solidarity movement for the women in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are working to keep institutions such as schools and hospitals open during the war, sometimes without salaries. They are not  included in any of the humanitarian aid going to the internally displaced at the time. We work together with Arbetarkonvojen and send over 20,000 packages.

1995: women, peace and security at the Beijing Conference

Kvinna till Kvinna goes from being a network to becoming a foundation and settles in to the official head office in Stockholm.

Kvinna till Kvinna opens its first regional office in Croatia, covering both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The same year, the Dayton Accords are signed, a peace agreement marking the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is also the year of the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, with the goal of advancing women’s rights. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is adopted to showcase what is needed to secure women’s rights. One chapter focuses on women and armed conflict.

1996: support for rape survivors in Balkans

We start providing health care for women and children through a mobile clinic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over the course of just two years, the clinic’s gynaecologists and paediatricians help 7,000 women and 5,000 children.

Kvinna till Kvinna invites the Swedish minister for gender equality, Ulrica Messing, to Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit some women’s centres and organisations in Sarajevo.

1997: new offices

Kvinna till Kvinna’s Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina office finally moves to Sarajevo. We also open an office in Kosovo, at first together with other organisations.

That same year, the women’s movement in Croatia launches a campaign aiming to increase women’s participation in politics, calling it 51%. This is to highlight the fact that despite women making up more than half of the population in Croatia, they are entirely underrepresented in parliament.

1999: expanding

At the start of 1999, there are six women working for Kvinna till Kvinna. By the end of the year, Kvinna till Kvinna has twelve employees and three offices in the Western Balkans. We also open an office in Macedonia (now North Macedonia), following refugees coming from Kosovo.

We start discussing whether Kvinna till Kvinna should expand to other places—trips to other regions are made to see if we would have any added value. We want to make sure to be in contact with women’s organisations to make it worthwhile.

2000: groundbreaking gender analysis of peace agreement

In 2000, we present our report “Engendering the Peace Process: A Gender Approach to Dayton and Beyond.” The report exposes the consequences of the Dayton Agreement’s lack of a gender perspective. It is the first time ever a gender analysis of a peace agreement is published.

The same year, the UN Security Council adopts resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It confirms the importance of women’s participation in peace processes. Our report is one of the foundations of the resolution.

Anna Lidén (one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s founders) and Kerstin Grebäck (our former secretary-general) accepting the Right Livelihood Award.

2002: winning the "Alternative Nobel Prize"

We are the proud recipients of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. We receive the prize for our “successes in addressing ethnic hatred by helping war-torn women to be the major agents of peace-building and reconciliation.”

Kvinna till Kvinna continues to grow and expands to a new region: the South Caucasus. We open an office in Tiblisi, Georgia. We also open an office in Tirana, Albania.

Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

2003: ten years for women's rights

On our 10th anniversary, Kvinna till Kvinna has 25 employees and cooperates with 70 women’s rights organisations in the Balkans, the Middle East and the South Caucasus.

That summer, we invite all partner organisations to Dubrovnik in Croatia, for several days of intense networking and best-practice sharing. Networking has always been key for Kvinna till Kvinna to build capacity, sisterhood and power.

The United Nations invite Kvinna till Kvinna to participate in on one of its expert meeting, to set the agenda for next year’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Photo: Christopher Herwig

2004: open office in Jordan!

An office in Amman, Jordan, is established. This allows us to directly support women who have fled from war and conflict in Jordan’s neighbouring countries. It is a regional office from the start, covering Lebanon, Iraq and Syria in addition to Jordan.

Read more about our work in the Middle East and North Africa region.

2005: journalism to highlight women and peace

For a while, Kvinna till Kvinna had worked on media’s portrayal of women, and particularly women in conflict. This included working with peace journalism and discussing how to make it more gendered in its approach with one of the most important journalists in the field—Jake Lynch.

In 2005, we also produce a short report in Swedish (later translated), called “We report on women in war and conflicts” (Vi rapporterar om kvinnor i krig och konflikter). The report shines a light on how the media is covering women in conflict regions mostly as nameless victims, as well as the need for peace journalism and a gender perspective.

Read our report on the issue: “Peace journalism”.

2008: UN awareness not mirrored by foreign minister

In 2008, the UN Security Council adopts resolution 1820, declaring that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.” It is the first time the United Nations explicitly links sexual violence with women, peace and security.

We analyse the awareness of the Swedish foreign minister when it comes to women’s role in peacebuilding. We also launch our first report on hatred and threats towards WHRD, based on a hundred interviews. The report is published in cooperation with Urgent Action Fund and Frontline defenders. Read Insist, Resist, Persist, Exist.

2009: operate in four regions

We start to work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and thus enter a fourth region, even if it will take some years for us to open up our own office.

The same year we start our advocacy work towards the EU. This provides a forum for women from the Western Balkans to share their perspectives on women’s rights in the EU accession process.

Kvinna till Kvinna produces its first documentary, Women’s War, capturing a meeting between women’s rights activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina and DRC on the work to support women victims of sexual violence in conflict. The activists visit each other, and sharing experiences and showed the length of the healing process.

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to Leymah Gbowee (right), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (centre) and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen (left). Photo: Martin von Krogh

2011: Nobel Peace Prize for Leymah Gbowee

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to three women—including Leymah Gbowee from one of our Liberian partner organisations. Leymah, along with many more women’s rights activists, managed to put an end to the country’s brutal civil war.

Kvinna till Kvinna opens an office in Monrovia, Liberia and in Erbil, Iraq.

Photo: Christopher Herwig

2013: 20 years of fighting for women’s rights!

With 20 years of supporting feminist movements, Kvinna till Kvinna works in 15 countries in Africa, the MENA region, the South Caucasus and the Western Balkans. In total, we support more than 100 local women’s rights organisations across the world.

Our documentary film “Six Days” has its premiere, a tribute to the thousands of women’s rights activists we have had the honour of working with. “Six Days” is shown at film festivals, the European Parliament and at European delegations in countries like Nepal and El Salvador. We also launch the Equal Power Lasting Peace report and host a full-day high level conference in Brussels targeting EU decision-makers.

2014: women hit hardest by Ebola

A massive Ebola outbreak occurs in west Africa, hitting Liberia particularly hard. Kvinna till Kvinna is one of the few international organisations deciding to stay in the country. Women constitute 75% of those dying of Ebola during the outbreak. Women are often the ones taking care of sick relatives, and they constitute the majority of health-care staff. And because of low literacy rates, many women are unable to access important information about infection risks.

We continue our work to prevent new outbreaks and support those affected to this day.

2015: major achievements against abuse of women

Jordan sees a breakthrough in 2015, when a woman who had been domestically abused by her family is offered compensation for the first time. The decision receives a great deal of media attention, causing the general public to start questioning violence against women.

A second major success occurs in Liberia. In 2015, the country adopts a law against domestic violence and criminalises marital rape.

Kvinna till Kvinna starts working strategically with partner organisations on the Western Balkans to advocate for women’s rights in the EU accession process. This work has put gender equality and women’s rights in the Western Balkans on the EU’s agenda and has created a feminist advocacy network throughout the region.

2017: we open new offices!

Kvinna till Kvinna continues to grow and opens up offices in Kigali, Rwanda and Tunis, Tunisia.

The same year, our partner organisations’ hard work finally results in Jordan removing a law that had given rapists the possibility to go without punishment by marrying the victim.

2018: first report on shrinking civic space

In 2018, Kvinna till Kvinna celebrates its 25th anniversary!

We publish one of the very first reports on the gendered aspects of shrinking civic space, our “Suffocating the movement” report. State and non-state actors are increasingly targeting women’s rights activists. Spurred on by growing nationalism, extremism and fears of political change, they try to silence the movement with threats, hate campaigns and practical harassment.

Women human rights defender Intisar Al-Amyal. Photo: Anne-Sophie Le Mauff

2020: covid-19 strikes the world

In 2020, Covid-19 strikes the world and it is once again shown how important it is to have a gender perspective on conflict and crises. Kvinna till Kvinna and partner organisations are rapidly reporting on increased number of gender-based violence and the need to include women in decisions on covid-19 response.

During the same year, women’s rights activist Intisar Al-Amyal from our partnerorganisation Iraqi Women League wins the Per Anger Prize for her work for women’s rights in Iraq.

2021: solidarity is our only weapon

In 2021, our report ‘Solidarity Is Our Only Weapon’ is published, painting a harsh picture of the abuse that women human rights defenders face. Even rights we sometimes take for granted—like a woman’s right to decide over her own body—are under attack.

But we still see the women’s movement create change in different parts of the world. In Rwanda, a whopping 89% of the women candidates our partner organisations had coached ahead of local elections are victorious. And, our Syria and Georgia teams organise their first-ever cross-regional exchange on working in active warzones.

2022: activates emergency fund

Kvinna till Kvinna has supported women’s rights in Ukraine since 2014. After Russia’s large-scale invasion in 2022, Kvinna till Kvinna activates an emergency fund to provide urgent support to women’s rights organisations and women human rights defenders in and from Ukraine, working to help women exposed to violence, displaced women, and families in need of immediate support. We have since then activated the emergency fund for other countries as well.

In Kvinna till Kvinna’s position paper The Climate, Gender and Conflict Nexus we briefly  outline the links between the environmental and climate crisis and gender-based violence, movement building, participation, peacebuilding and economic gender justice.

Selma Badžić, Aida Ćosić and Sabina Mahić, Center of Women's Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo: Imrana Kapetanović

2023: 30 years fighting for women's rights!

With 30 years of supporting feminist movements, Kvinna till Kvinna now works in over 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the MENA region, the South Caucasus and Europe. In total, we support more than 140 local women’s rights organisations across the world.

In 2023, we are implementing our new global strategy A push for lasting peace. Together with our partner organisations across the world we enable empowerment of women, both in their own lives and in society.

News from our partners

Get our newsletter

Keep up to date on our work for women's rights. Never miss a report launch.

I agree that above information will be stored in accordance with GDPR. Read more about our privacy policy.
Last updated or reviewed 5 June 2024
Published 2 October 2018