Roadmap to women’s rights in Europe

This is NewsMavens' editorial assessment of the challenges, champions and stories that are shaping women’s lives in European countries today.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Roadmap to women’s rights in Europe  - NewsMavens
Map of Europe in Newsmavens colors and patterns

After two years of exploring the news from the perspective of women journalists across Europe, the NewsMavens experiment is finished. We set out to discover what would happen to the news narrative if only women choose the news [read our findings here],and to take the temperature of sexism in European media [read insights from #Femfacts here].

We close the project now with an overview of women’s rights in Europe. Below is our subjective, editorial assessment of the challenges, champions and stories that are shaping women’s lives in every European* country, created by the remarkable team of journalists, fact checkers and editors who have banded together under the NewsMavens brand since 2017 [read quotes about the project from our team here].

We hope this parting gift will prove a useful resource for equality-sensitive journalists, activists, researchers and concerned citizens.

*The 36 countries in the Roadmap were not selected according to any geopolitical definition of Europe, but rather as the organic result of our existing partnerships. For more information on feminist organizations in Europe, please consult our extended list here.

Editor’s note

The most striking difference between women’s rights and men’s rights is that the first is up for constant renegotiation and the second is not. Whether you are conservative or progressive, men’s place at the top of the power pyramid is simply never up for debate. It may be one of the few truly common grounds between people of opposing worldviews. Even fascists are in agreement on this.

Regardless of which party wins the elections in European countries, men’s access to vital health care, their right to be safe from abuse, to fair pay and access to business, political and academic opportunities remain unchanged.

Not so for women, whose fates are invariably tied to the volatile shifts of politics.

In the roadmap below, the backpedaling of women’s rights is clearly in evidence everywhere the Catholic Church has greater sway, and where the political tide has taken a decided turn to the right or veered away from liberal democracy. Though this is clearly a Central and Eastern European phenomena, countries like Italy and the Netherlands are also struggling to keep political changes from yanking rights away from women.

Most worrying, however, is that violence against women is on the rise in every corner of Europe, from Finland to Greece, and Serbia to Switzerland. There is no common political axis or level of economic development among the countries where femicide, rape, and domestic violence top the list of most pressing women’s concerns.

What could be the source of this increasing threat to women’s life and safety in the Europe of 2019?

As a pan-European trend, it must be something more than local culture and history. Perhaps the fickleness of the emancipation dance itself is to blame.

If the right to abortion, for example, can be the object of a constant political tug of war -- alternatively prohibited, allowed, amended with exceptions, and renegotiated in referendums -- than the issue is never truly decided.

Even in places where the laws on abortion don’t change, citizens are aware that in neighboring countries the debate rages on and shifts with surprising frequency. Which makes women’s position in society tentative, and grants the opinions of individuals about our roles and responsibilities much more weight. After all, if enough like-minded citizens rally in the next election, their opinion about women might just become law.

It is my firm conviction that this will continue to be the case as long as women are not equally represented in European power structures. All of them.

How do women join men at the top of power structures?

As I look back on what we have learned from NewsMavens, a few insights stand out. One is that women pay attention to women and other marginalized groups [more], which means that when women rise, they take their families and communities and other disempowered with them [more]. Another is that protesting in the streets is an important signal to send to power, but it is not the same as having power ourselves [more]. And a third is that giving women moral support is simply not enough [more]. To get past the networked, systemic roadblocks, to get access to power and remain safe and strong enough to retain it we need brains, friends in high places, access to money and strength in numbers.

Thus far the women’s movement has been about protecting women from harm, allowing us to better ourselves, and to participate fully in our democracies and economies. Today, perhaps it’s time we shift focus to gaining and retaining power.

Whether it’s money or politics, power is the inner circle that women have infiltrated least in our efforts to balance the gender scales. This is also a source of instability in feminism’s progress.

As the political pendulum swings right and Brexit draws near, the future of the European Union is unclear. Above our regional problems, there is also the blanket digital disruption that has upset the balance of power in place since WWII by displacing much influence to giant tech companies. The current political order clearly needs a redesign to include technology within a democratic framework and strengthen European integrity.

Looking ahead at the emerging future, I see this moment as an opportunity for women to reach in,lead the change and secure the equality that neither empires, nor dictatorships nor communism nor, in the end, democracy has ever fully given us.

One of the key ways we can make this happen is by strengthening our networks and scaling our best practices.

NewsMavens has shown that there is an international audience interested and eager to engage with women’s issues. It is our sincere hope that bold initiatives and far reaching ideas evolve quickly to tap into this potential, to the benefit of gender balance across Europe.Thank you for being with us.

-- Zuzanna Ziomecka, NewsMavens founder and editor in chief

Thank you to the amazing people who have supported NewsMavens

The NewsMavens founding team comprised of Zuzanna Ziomecka -- editor in chief, Lea Berriault -- managing editor, and Jessica Sirotin -- features editor, andTijana Cvjetićanin -- Femfacts editor, would like to thank the following people for their faith in and support for NewsMavens:

Jerzy Wójcik, Joanna Mosiej-Sitek, Joanna Krawczyk and Grzegorz Piechota from Gazeta Wyborcza for believing in the project and creating the conditions for it to thrive.

Dominka Zaleska, Agnieszka Suchorska, Helen Ebert, Szymon Kaczmarek, Grzegorz Danowski i Krzysztof Pozorek for designing and building the website and newsletter.

For seeing the potential in NewsMavens and granting the original funds to make it happen: Ludovic Blecher, Eero Korhonen, Rebecca Young and the amazing team at Google Digital News Initiative Fund.

For partnering with NewsMavens for the original grant application without which the project would never have launched: Tomas Bella and Matúš Kostolný from Dennik N, Deirdre Veldon and Liam Kavanagh from the Irish Times, Lisa Mayr and Schüller Rainer from Der Standard, Lorenzo D’Auria from La Repubblica.

For supporting our work via networking and educational opportunities: Alexandra Borchardt from Reuter’s Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford; Adam Thomas, Mattia Peretti, Paula Montana Tor from the European Journalism Center; Madhav Chinnappa and Chris Shipley from Google DNI and Newsgeist; Cherilyn Ireton and Melanie Walker from Wan-Ifra’s Women in News; and Peter Bale from the Global Editors Network.

For mentorship, connections, opportunities and encouragement: Hannah Storm, Julie Posetti, Joanna Webster, Emma Thomasson, Inga Thordardottir, Sameer Padania, Grzegorz Piechota, Cristian Lupsa, John Saroff, Christoph Pleitgen, Olga Nemcanin, and all the brilliant members of the News Impact Network cohort 2018: Esther Alonso, Eliza Anyangwe, Kustaw Bessems, John Crowley, Esra Dogramaci, Christina Elmer, Alex Entwistle, Rachel Hamada, Andrea Iannuzzi,Lies Lecomte, Gayatri Parameswaran, András Pethő, Dávid Tvrdoň, Anu Ubaud.

For the news recommendations, features and investigations that were the heart of NewsMavens: Ada Petriczko, Ana Maria Luca, Anabella Costache, Andreea Groenendijk-Deveau, Anna J.Dudek. Ans Boersma, Biljana Livančić-Milić, Catherine Edwards, Cathrin Kahlweit, Catia Bruno, Christine Tragler, Ciara Kenny, Cinzia Sciuto, Claudia Ciobanu, Daiva Repečkaitė, Daria Sukharchuk, Delia Budurca, Dialekti Angeli, Eliza Archer, Elizabeth Pratt, Elizabeth Walsh, Gea Alessi, Ingrid Colanicchia, Iris Pase, Ivett Körösi, Janna Brancolini, Joanna Wrózynska, Johanna Wild, Julia Sahlender, Julija Ovsec, Karolina Zbytniewska, Lara Bullens, LidijaPisker, Linh Nguyen, Lisa Dupuy, Lydia Morrish, Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk, MariaR. Sahuquillo, Marian Männi, Marion Dautry, Marjan Justaert, Marta Tuul, MartynaKraus, Melanie Taylor, Nataša Vajagić, Olena Churanova, Pauline Tillmann, Piotr Sterczewski, Ria Gehrerová, Roxane Seckauer, Roxanne D’Arco, Sara Saidi, SianNorris, Sofija Kordic, Tabatha Leggett, Tonina Alomar, Valerie Vlasenko, Victoria Wystepek, Zuzanna Piechowicz.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at