Our History

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) was founded in 1976 in response to concerns that international development interventions were benefiting men and women unequally – to the detriment of entire societies. At the time, women’s roles and responsibilities, their needs and concerns, and their contributions and constraints were invisible to those who determined how countries spent funds to combat poverty, illiteracy, and poor health. ICRW was established to make visible the invisible. 

In its early years, ICRW quantified how women contributed to the economy through diverse occupations and showed that a growing number of poor households depended on income from women’s labor. Our findings determined that the effectiveness of poverty relief programs were undermined by a misperception that households were led only by men. By not recognizing women as heads of households, programs failed to reach the most vulnerable among the poor. Even more, these poverty-alleviation programs did not capitalize on another well-documented reality – that when women control resources, their children are more likely to be educated and healthier.

Over time, our research and advocacy efforts have helped change the trajectory of women’s lives in developing countries. For instance, in the 1980s, ICRW’s research in Latin America demonstrated that if credit programs were designed to meet poor women’s needs for smaller loans and untraditional forms of collateral, women paid the loans back at rates often better than men. Today, millions of poor women worldwide benefit from microfinance programs.

ICRW also is responsible for uncovering issues that affect the health of the world’s women. In the 1990s, we were among the first organizations to document the impact of AIDS on women. ICRW discovered that women in long-term relationships were becoming infected with the disease because they did not have access to information about how to protect themselves from it. We also found that their economic dependency on men made it less likely for women to have the power to convince their partner to use a condom – especially when the consequence of doing so can be violence against them.

ICRW merged with Re:Gender, formerly the National Council for Research on Women, in 2016. Both organizations value the importance of research in shaping policies and services that empower women and girls, striving to improve their social status and economic well-being. With a rich history of advocating for women’s rights and human rights, ICRW and Re:Gender are respected research organizations dedicated to reducing global poverty by investing in the lives of women and girls. Our commitment is exemplified through initiatives like the launch of our feminist foreign policy portfolio in 2021.

Through research, advocacy, services, and partnerships, we continue our work — with an eye to reduce global poverty by investing in the lives of women, girls, and gender and sexual minorities.


New Leadership

ICRW welcomes Peggy Clark as the new President and CEO.


COVID-19 Pandemic

Global pandemic strikes world; stalling progress. Women are hardest hit by COVID-19 yet also are on the frontlines of response. Beijing +25 marks some progress with much more to be done.


Stella Mukasa Award for Staff Excellence

ICRW establishes the Stella Mukasa Award for Staff Excellence to recognize staff who have made important and significant contributions that have furthered ICRW's mission, where the individual substantially excels in ICRW’s Core Values and where the individual exhibits the attributes of Stella Mukasa who was fiercely determined, deeply insightful, warm and generous and above all, passionate about her work.


Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality (CWEEE)

ICRW helps to found the Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality, a coalition of gender equity and human rights organizations, to advocate for U.S. laws and policies that promote women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. The Coalition worked with U.S. congressional allies to develop and work to pass the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act of 2018. The Act affirms the importance of women’s rights and recognizes how investments in women’s entrepreneurship and financial inclusion are essential to advancing the United States’ other global development goals.



ICRW Netherlands Established

ICRW is officially registered as a Stichtung in the Netherlands, creating ICRW-Netherlands to expand our research and partnerships in Europe.


ICRW Philanthropic Advisory Established

ICRW establishes ICRW Advisors, a free-standing consulting practice to help leaders achieve lasting organizational and social change related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

With UNICEF, ICRW convenes a consultation to identify research priorities to address and improve mental health during adolescence in low and middle-income countries, with a focus on gender and gender norms, with representatives from bilateral and multilateral agencies, donor institutions, academia, civil society and implementing organizations.

ICRW releases first Feminist UN report card, assessing the progress of the U.N. Secretary-General in fostering feminist transformation throughout the U.N. System. Secretary-General António Guterres was elected amid calls for new feminist leadership at the United Nations and pledged to advance a feminist agenda as part of its leadership platform, inviting civil society to monitor his success. Following this invitation , ICRW lead the creation of the Feminist UN coalition.


ICRW Uganda Office Established

ICRW opens the Africa Regional Office, with headquarters straddling Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya. This office focuses on research on women and girls in the entire Africa region and serves as a regional platform for dialogue around gender and development.


ICRW celebrates its 40th anniversary with a series of events in Washington, DC, New Delhi, India and Copenhagen at the Women Deliver conference. Each event honored visionary leaders for gender equity with ICRW’s Champions for Change Awards, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Melinda French Gates, Women Deliver founder Jill Sheffield and former ICRW president, Geeta Rao Gupta.


Paula Kantor Award for Field Research

ICRW inaugurates the Paula Kantor Award for Field Research, in memory of former colleague Dr. Paula Kantor, a renowned researcher focused on gender and agriculture. In the spirit of Paula’s legacy of research to advance the economic and social well-being of women in low-income and otherwise marginalized communities worldwide, this annual award is given to a young professional female researcher doing field research related to ICRW’s mission.


Re:Gender Merge

ICRW merges with Re:Gender, formerly the National Council for Research on Women, a 35 year-old network of U.S. centers of excellence in gender and women’s studies, to pursue a global mission to advance gender equity, inclusion and alleviate poverty.

Under the merger with Re:Gender, ICRW receives stewardship for the Mariam K. Chamberlain Dissertation Award, established by the founder of the National Council for Research on Women to encourage feminist scholarship. The award supports the dissertation research of a first-generation doctoral student in an area of study related to ICRW’s mission.


Recognizing women’s contributions along the value chain — as producers, sellers or consumers, for example — ICRW collaborated with Acumen, a non-profit addressing poverty by investing in companies that serve low-income people, studied how impact investors can empower women. The report demonstrates that integrating gender at various levels not only improves company performance, but also has positive social incomes reflected in women’s empowerment for employees, entrepreneurs and customers.


End Child Marriage Work Begins

ICRW launches the Economic Impacts of Child Marriage project with the World Bank, a multi-year research program to understand the economic impact child marriage has on family and national economies.


Passports to Progress

ICRW celebrates its 35th anniversary with Passports to Progress, a year-long series of high-level discussions on strategies to advance women’s rights. Speakers included Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Cherie Blair of the Cherie Blair Foundation and Bobbi Silten of the Gap Foundation, among many others.

ICRW releases the results of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), a groundbreaking three-year, multi-country household survey of men’s attitudes and practices on a variety of topics related to gender equality. The information provided by IMAGES filled a gap in knowledge about men, providing a blueprint for how to shape or revise policies and improve existing programs. Since its initial launch, IMAGES has been replicated in dozens of countries, surveying tens of thousands of households.

ICRW releases Understanding and Measuring Women’s Economic Empowerment, a guide to help institutions — from governments to NGOs to corporations — understand the different elements that define economic empowerment in order to evaluate whether programs to strengthen women economically are effective.

ICRW and its partners, Associates Research Uganda, Limited and the University of KwaZulu-Natal developed and piloted the Gender, Land and Asset Survey to measure the full spectrum of women’s and men’s property rights – including ownership, use, control and decision making over land, housing and productive assets. The survey was able to demonstrate differences not only in women’s and men’s ownership of assets but also differences in documentation and decision-making.


Stigma Action Network (SAN)

ICRW leads the launch of the Stigma Action Network (SAN) at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. SAN aims to establish and augment research, program, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing those invested or interested, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV services and programs.


Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS)

ICRW’s Asia Regional Office launches the Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) program to promote gender equity and reduce violence through classroom activities and discussions. Launched in 45 schools in Mumbai, it has since been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.


ICRW publishes “Women, Food Security and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace,” which challenges the agricultural development community to recognize women farmers as key economic agents of change who contribute to agricultural and economic growth and food security.


ICRW expands office in New Delhi into the Asia Regional Office to lead the implementation of ICRW’s mission in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Vietnam and Thailand.


Champions for Change Awards

ICRW launches its Champions for Change Awards to celebrate the possibilities of a gender equitable world and honor the leaders and visionaries who work to make that world a reality. The inaugural awards honored Susan Berreford of the Ford Foundation and Philip Knight for the Nike Foundation Girl Effect.

ICRW conducts foundational research for the Young Men’s Initiative in Kosovo, an intervention designed to promote gender equitable attitudes and non-violence in young men. The programs create a safe space for adolescent boys and young men to examine issues such as homophobia, sexual and reproductive health, sexual violence and conflict resolution.


ICRW co-leads the U.N. Millennium Project Task Force on Education and Gender Equality and recommends seven strategic priorities to achieve women’s empowerment and gender equality, Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals.


Drawing on decades of evidence on the causes, consequences and solutions for child marriage, ICRW begins a campaign to educate U.S. policymakers and advocate for legislation that would integrate child marriage prevention efforts into existing programs.


ICRW draws upon the findings of a landmark 10-year program to understand women’s vulnerability to HIV in a plenary address delivered by President Geeta Rao Gupta at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, “Gender, Sexuality, and HIV/AIDS: the What, the Why, and the How.” The speech and resulting journal article provided the HIV/AIDS community with a framework for shaping and the gender-responsiveness of AIDS programming.


Millennium Development Goals Adopted New York.

First global effort to quantify and measure progress against key goals for human development and poverty alleviation. ICRW leads on gender equality platform. ICRW leads landmark study on women and HIV/AIDS.


ICRW research in Botswana and Zambia identifies stigma as a key barrier to the use of services to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child. This initial research paves the way for ICRW’s global leadership in building evidence on how to effectively address stigma.


ICRW establishes a local office in New Delhi, India, to coordinate a groundbreaking five-year study to document the prevalence of domestic violence. The findings are used to advocate for the 2005 passage of a national law to decrease domestic violence.


ICRW Founder Mayra Buvinic and President Geeta Rao Gupta call on the global development community to focus on the contributions and barriers to development efforts of female-headed households in the journal Economic Development and Cultural Change. The authors note that women who head households are “triply disadvantaged” by the “burdens of poverty, gender discrimination and the absence of support.”


Beijing holds the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Hillary Clinton, US rep., makes historic remarks, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” ICRW leads research and action on women’s key role in economies. ICRW pioneers research on adolescent girls health.


ICRW initiates a 10-year project to improve adolescent reproductive health in India, where half the population is younger than 25. Our research finds that gender-based constraints – including a lack of power among young women – are at the root of health behavior and risks. ICRW and its local partners design, implement and evaluate multiple interventions to address these issues.


ICRW publishes “Women in Agriculture: What Development Can Do,” describing women’s roles in farming systems, the impact of agricultural technologies on women’s productivity and an agenda for how development assistance can support their role.
ICRW launches a pioneering research program in 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to investigate the factors that increase women’s vulnerability to HIV. Ten years later, in 2000, ICRW drew upon the findings of this program to deliver a plenary address, “Gender, Sexuality, and HIV/AIDS: the What, the Why, and the How” at the 13th International AIDS Conference in South Africa.


ICRW identifies the characteristics and experiences of women in poverty with the publication of “Women and Poverty in the Third World.”


Research Breakthrough

With the publication of “Women-Headed Households: The Ignored Factor in Development Planning,” ICRW establishes for the first time why poverty alleviation programs need to pay attention to family structures, particularly families led by women.


ICRW Founded

ICRW is founded as a program of the Federation of Organizations for Professional Women in response to the first International Women’s Conference in Mexico.