Since some of the earliest women's refuges, shelters, centres and crisis services were established in the 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:

  • Create 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 shelter networks in every country, and six or more global regional shelter networks (networks made up of many countries).

Why are we focusing on Women's Shelters?

We decided it was very important to use the term 'shelter' in our organization name.  Many different types of community support and services are needed to end violence against women and girls. However, we continue to face significant challenges in establishing enough safe refuge and shelter for women at risk of violence in every community. In some countries, it has been difficult to create even one shelter. Even in countries where feminist independent shelter services have been well-developed, they are under regular attack and important women-centred shelter services are being cut and lost due to political and economic forces. 


  • September 2008: at the 1st World Conference of Women's Shelters, shelter organizations and national networks met in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to discuss issues impacting women and girls surviving violence. During this conference, shelters and shelter networks identified the clear need to form a global shelter organization.


  • April 2009: representatives from various shelter networks and global regions met in Ottawa, Canada and the Global Network of Women's Shelters was founded.
  • GNWS created a survey and held our first annual one day Global Shelter Data Count, a glimpse at the services some women's shelters provide.



  • March 2011: a GNWS Interim Board meeting was held in Amsterdam to identify resources and issues affecting shelters around the globe, and to discuss outreach to each global region.
  • April 2011: GNWS released our 2nd annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
  • September - December 2011, GNWS held our 3rd annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.


  • February 2012: GNWS Board met in Washington DC to identify new issues facing shelters, plan regional networking sessions, create a Global Call to Action, figure out how GNWS membership would work, and decide other ways we could engage and seek input from delegates during the conference. 
  • GNWS and the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence hosted 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!
  • March 2012: GNWS released our 3rd annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
  • September 2012: the first Asian Conference of Women's Shelters was held in Taipei and the Asian Network of Women's Shelters was created.
  • September 2012: The Nordic Network of Women's Shelters met in Helsinki, Finland.
  • September 2012: Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) met in London, England and hosted a half day informal meeting of the GNWS Interim Board; GNWS members discussed creating a campaign for the rights of undocumented migrant women to access shelters. 
  • December 2012: the African Network of Women's Shelters held a steering committee meeting, Women’s Safe Spaces: To strengthen and uphold women and their families' dignity, in Kigali and created an action plan to ensure that the African voice on shelters is heard, existing partnerships strengthened and new ones formed.
  • September-December 2012: GNWS held our 4th annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.


  • March 2013: GNWS released our 4th annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
  • March 2013: GNWS created our first multi-language Global Poster Campaign with the message: Shelters, Refuges and Centres will be there for all Women until Gender Based Violence Stops.   GNWS members translated the message into a dozen languages.
  • October-December 2013: GNWS held our 5th annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.


  • March 2014: there was a GNWS Interim Board meeting in New York City, USA.  
  • March 2014: Several GNWS members, including the Asian Network of Women's Shelters, presented issues and concerns facing women in their global regions at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) in New York City, USA.
  • March-May 2014: GNWS releases our 5th annual Global Shelter Data Count report.


Future GNWS Activities:


  • October-December 2014: GNWS holds our 6th annual one day Global Shelter Data Count.


  • March 2015: GNWS Interim Board Meeting in New York City, USA
  • March-April 2015: GNWS releases our 6th annual Global Shelter Data Count report.
  • October 2015: GNWS Interim Board Meeting.
  • November 2015: Tentative date for the 3rd World Conference of Women's Shelters.