Since some of the first women's refuges, shelters, centres and crisis services were established in the early 1970s, the feminist movement across the world has worked together to develop a range of local and national services as well as national coordinating networks in different countries. Over the years, we have also cooperated internationally to: establish international networks, working groups and conferences; support the development of services worldwide; and, support our shared goals of ending violence against women, promoting human rights and achieving equality.
When we came together to form the Global Network of Women's Shelters in 2008, our aim was not only to be more effective in working together globally to end violence against women but also to encourage and support the development of national networks in every country.
We decided to use the term 'shelter' in the name to recognize that while there are many different forms of community support and violence against women services that are needed, we continue to face significant challenges in establishing safe refuge and shelter for women at risk of violence, not just in terms of the very difficult challenges being faced to even establish one shelter in some countries but also because even in countries where feminist independent services are well- developed, they are under attack and are already being lost due to political and economic forces.
- At the 1st World Conference of Women's Shelters in September 2008, shelter organizations and national networks met in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to discuss issues impacting women and girls surviving violence. They identified the clear need to form a global organization.
- In April 2009, representatives from various shelter networks and global regions met in Ottawa, Canada to found the Global Network of Women's Shelters.
- GNWS held its first annual one day Global Shelter Data Count, a glimpse of services some shelters provide.
- In February 2010, the GNWS met in New York City, USA, and adopted its present Vision and Purpose, Guiding Principles and Core Values, Goals and Interim Board with committees.
- In March 2010, at the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, USA, GNWS presented on the important work of women's shelters around the world.
- In the last quarter of 2010, GNWS held its 2nd annual one day Global Shelter Data Count, a glimpse at shelter services.
- GNWS selected the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence to host the 2nd World Conference of Women's Shelters on February 27 - March 1, 2012 in Washington, DC, USA.
- In March 2011, the GNWS Board met in Amsterdam to identify resources and issues affecting shelters around the globe, and to discuss outreach to each global region.
- In April 2011, GNWS released our 2nd annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
- In the last quarter of 2011, GNWS held its 3rd annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.
- In February 2012, GNWS Board met in Washington DC prior to the 2nd World Conference of Women's Shelters to identify new issues facing shelters, work on the Global Call to Action, Membership, and many other activities to engage and seek input from delegates during the conference.
- GNWS and the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence host the 2nd World Conference of Women's Shelters bringing 1,000s of delegates from 96 countries who work in women's shelters and crisis centres, refuges, transitional houses and more!
- In March 2012, GNWS released our 3rd annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
- In September 2012, the the first Asian Conference of Women's Shelters was held in Taipei and the Asian Network of Women's Shelters was created. The Nordic Network of Women's Shelters also met in Helsinki, Finland.
- In September 2012, Z met in London, England and hosted a half day GNWS informal board meeting where members discussed creating a campaign for the rights of undocumented migrant women to access shelters.
- In the last quarter of 2012, GNWS held its 3rd annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.