What We Do:

Council of Women World Leaders

Empowering Women Around the World

Council of Women World Leaders

About Council of Women World Leaders
  |  Members  | Programs and Activities

About Us

The Council of Women World Leaders is an independent, self-governing 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, programs and partnerships, the Council promotes good governance and gender equality, and enhances the visibility of women who lead their countries.  Tarja Halonen, President of Finland (2000-present), serves as Chair of the Council.  The Council is an alliance of the UN Foundation.  

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, United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence and Conflict, is the Chair of the Ministerial Initiative.  The founding chair is the Honorable Madeleine Albright. The Ministerial Initiative seeks to promote ministerial-level exchange on global issues, to positions, and to increase their visibility both national 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 untied force for policy change, with a gender perspective.  

Council of Women World Leaders News 

Press Release

President Park Geun-hye Joins Council of Women World Leaders
February 24, 2014


Founded in 2008, the Madeleine K. Albright Women’s Voices at the Aspen Institute Serieshosts global leaders and internationally acclaimed experts to discuss and debate policy issues, with an emphasis on the gender dimension of each issue, and suggest future actions for change.  Speakers have included Council members Michelle Bachelet, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Emily de Jongh-Elhage, and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, as well as Cherie Blair, Madeleine K. Albright, and Margot Wallström.


Through its Graduate Fellowship Programs, established in 2001, the Council places graduate students in the offices of president, prime ministers, and leaders of international organizations to work on timely global issues, observe leadership in action, and provide a gender analysis of their projects. 

The Gender and Public Policy Graduate Fellowship Program and the Public Health Policy Graduate Fellowship Program have placed more than 130 students in offices around the globe.

In 2010, the Council introduced its Environmental Policy Graduate Fellowship Program linking Ministries of Environment and international environmental organizations in developed and developing countries with promising leaders from top-tier environmental graduate programs in the United States.