Polish Power Women: Urszula Nowakowska

Urszula Nowakowska

Urszula Nowakowska is the founder and the president of the Warsaw-based Women’s Rights Center, a leading Polish NGO providing comprehensive assistance to female victims of violence. The Center has several branches around the country and it runs a safe shelter in Warsaw for women and women with children who left their homes to escape their abusers.  Over the past 22 years, Urszula Nowakowska has personally intervened in numerous ongoing gender-based violence cases, often accompanying women escaping abusive partners and bringing them to safety.  Throughout her years of service, she has shown strong determination and courage in providing assistance to victims of domestic abuse.

Prior to establishing the Women’s Rights Center, MS. Nowakowska was a women’s rights activist.  In the 1980s, she was one of the first to explicitly raise women’s rights in politics and society as part of the anti-communist opposition.  She co-founded the Polish Feminist Association in 1989 and was actively involved in numerous efforts to create an influential women’s movement to consider gender equality as part of the new legal and political order after the collapse of communism.  In 1991, Ms. Nowakowska attended the Equal Opportunity and Legal Protection International Visitor Leadership Program in Washington, DC, and in 1993 participated in a three month U.S. Congressional Fellowship Program.  From 1992-1995, she served as a staff member of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee and the European Integration Committee.  In 1994, Ms. Nowakowska helped co-found Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), a network of European NGOs working to combat violence against women and children, and continues to serve as a member of the network’s advisory board.

Throughout her decades of work, Ms. Nowakowska has actively advocated for gender-based anti-discrimination laws, and has worked to make civil society a key government partner in combatting domestic violence. During her thirty years of advocacy, Ms. Nowakowska has authored and edited numerous legal manuals on violence against women, reports on women’s rights violations, and dozens of articles on women’s issues.  She has organized gender-based violence training for law enforcement and judicial officials, as well as women’s rights advocates.  Ms. Nowakowska also advocated for the ratification of the 2011 Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Her work in this area, as well as her contribution to combating violence against women, was recognized by former Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski when he signed the convention at the Women’s Rights Center’s office in Warsaw.