Laura Liswood


About the Council

The Council of Women World Leaders is a network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents established in 1996 by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland (1980-1996) and first woman in the world to be democratically elected president, and Laura Liswood, Secretary General. The Council's mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women. Through its networks, summits and partnerships, the Council promotes good governance and gender equality, and enhances the experience of democracy globally by increasing the number, effectiveness, and visibility of women who lead their countries. President Dalia Grybauskaite (twitter) of Lithuania is the Chair of the Council. The Council is located in Washington, DC.

As part of its goal to convene women at the highest levels of leadership, the Council increased its activities in 1998 to include women cabinet ministers. The Honorable Margot Wallström, Vice President of the European Commission, is the Chair of the Ministerial Initiative. The Ministerial Initiative seeks to promote ministerial-level exchange on global issues, to identify and address the particular challenges facing women in ministerial leadership positions, and to increase their visibility both nationally and internationally. To have the greatest impact, women ministers within the Ministerial Initiative are organized into different portfolios by ministry. The Council has convened numerous high-level meetings of women ministers of the environment, finance and development, health, justice, culture and women’s affairs. These meetings have created a unique space for ministers to share best practices from developing and developed country experiences and to form a powerful and united force for policy change, with a gender perspective.

A key dimension of the Council’s mission has been to build the capacity of emerging leaders. To this end, the Council has developed a program which places promising young women in the offices of Council members and other women leaders for summer Graduate Fellowship Programs. Supported by the Council’s early association with Harvard, and later, Columbia University, over 80 women and one man have served as fellows in 24 offices worldwide. Expanding upon our existing Graduate Fellowship Program, in 2009 the Council has launched the Public Health Graduate Fellowship Program. This program places students from top-tier graduate schools of public health in the ministries of members of the Council’s Ministerial Initiative for Health as well as in international organizations.

Through its programs and initiatives, the Council of Women World Leaders seeks to:

  • Mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women;

  • Promote good governance and gender equality, and enhance the experience of democracy globally by increasing the number, effectiveness, and visibility of women who lead their countries;
  • Create and sustain Ministerial Initiatives for cabinet ministers and promote the use of their collective power, together with women prime ministers and presidents, to shape global and national policies towards women and girls;
  • Improve the governance and effectiveness of women leaders through exchange and networking programs such as the ministerial fellowships, executive education, and graduate fellowships;
  • Foster greater gender awareness at major international institutions, partnering with major academic and policy institutions, and collaborating with grassroots organizations.

 

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