Women & Civic Space

Women’s rights and gender equality crosscut ICNL’s efforts to ensure that everyone, without discrimination, can fully participate in shaping the future.

Women, including girls, transgender, gender diverse, and intersex women, are advancing human rights and democracy across the world. Yet they face discriminatory laws and practices that prevent the exercise of civic freedoms. Many women also face intersectional forms of discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, which further impedes their participation in public life.

ICNL works to promote an enabling environment for women’s full and equal enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and public participation, including in online spaces. We work with partners to advance international, regional, and national norms and standards that enhance women’s civic freedoms. Working with women-led organizations and movements, ICNL also supports capacity building and knowledge sharing on how to advocate for legal reforms protecting civic space for all women.

symbol of women in circle in blue with aqua circle outside (Icon credit: The Noun Project)

Key Resources


This briefer explores the threat of online gender-based violence to the civic freedoms of women and girls around the world.


This report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association explores how women and girls-led organizations and movements contribute to progress in human rights, peace, and sustainable development.


This webinar was organized by ICNL, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. The event focused on ensuring women’s right to peaceful protest.

Women Journalists and Freedom of Expression

This report by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights examines the barriers and risks facing women journalists in the Americas as a result of inequality and gender-based discrimination. The report provides recommendations to States and other stakeholders on how to address those issues.

All Women & Civic Space Resources

An Iraqi woman prepares to cast her voting ballot into one of the bins after filling it out at a polling site in Rawah, Iraq during the country’s first parliamentary election. (Photo: Shane S. Keller/2005)

Addressing Violence against Women During Elections

When violence against women occurs during elections, the number of women voters, candidates, and officials ... Read More
Bahraini women during 2011 protests (Photo: Sara Hassan/Al Jazeera English)

Women-led Associations and Promoting Civic Space in the Persian Gulf

There are many challenges for women-led civil society organizations in the Middle East and North ... Read More
Climate change related flooding in Turkey (Photo: İHLAS HABER AJANSI)

COP27, Feminist Activism, and Women-led Civil Society Organizations

The Middle East and North Africa are already experiencing the impact of climate change on ... Read More
Aerial shot of freshwater wetlands of the Middle East—Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait (Photo: NASA/Creative Commons)

Feminist Environmental Activism in the Middle East and North Africa

In this article, environmental activist Hala Murad discusses feminist environmental activism in the Middle East ... Read More
Speakers from ICNL's joint side event at Stockholm+50, "Resistance and Resilience: Enhancing civic space for women and girls in climate activism." Panelists from five continents and six countries discussed their diverse experiences with the challenges facing women environmental defenders. (Photo: ICNL)

Resistance and Resilience: Women in Climate Activism

In June 2022, ICNL, EarthRights International, DefendDefenders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of ... Read More
Egyptian women line up to vote in 2011-2012 parliamentary elections. (Photo Credit: UN Women/Fatma Elzahraa Yassin)

How to Adopt a Gender Approach when Drafting or Amending Laws

This article by Esraa Mahadin discusses how to adopt gender policies when amending legislation. The ... Read More
Explore our full resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.