#FeministFridays are back! The September discussion was a great success! Our topic for the month is Feminism + Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). We were joined by Alliance members and friends from Burundi, India, Tanzania, Syria, and the United States to discuss the ways in which feminism and a gender lens can pivot the conversation on Countering Violent Extremism.

Alliance members, Visaka from Association of War-Affected Women and Emmanuel from YALI in Burundi lead the discussion on their work working on Prevention and Counter Violent Extremism (P/CVE). We also were joined by Audrey Alexander, Research Fellow Program on Extremism and the George Washington University, as a lead discussant who talked about her research on this topic.

Here were the main takeaways:

  • Women are agents within the realm of Violent Extremism and their roles are wide and varied. In CVE, we need to remember that women have many reasons for joining or participating with violent groups and that their roles within those groups and the community at large can inform how we can look to them as agents in P/CVE.
  • There needs to be a much greater inclusion of women in decision-making spaces and especially in P/CVE at large. Women need to be #InTheRoom and at the table. Emmanuel shared from his context in Burundi that women make-up 60 percent of the population and therefore, cannot be excluded. “Women have a key role to play as educators and influencers.”
  • We need to look at engaging women in P/CVE beyond their traditional roles as mothers and daughters and the roles that they play within the family. Women have a diverse set of reasons for supporting and Violent Extremism within their communities or countries and therefore their perspectives need to be taken into account beyond the current discourse and challenge the status quo. Visaka believes that it is this current discourse which keeps women from being taken seriously.
  • Women need to be taken seriously! Women need to not only be #InTheRoom and have their voices heard in P/CVE but also women need to be taken seriously when they are acting with the groups that are a part of violent extremism. Audrey spoke to the portrayal of women in conflict from the media and how they are so often only presented as victims and how we need to change the perspective on how women participate with VE and CVE.
  • Using a Feminist ideology and lens can begin to break down the gender norms and dominant discourse that keep women from being taken seriously in CVE and Violent Extremism.

Moving forward…

Questions that we are still thinking about:

  • From our member in Syria- How do we support women in conflict situations, especially when they are among more “vulnerable” populations such as displaced persons or those living in poverty?
  • How can we better engage with the intersectionality of this problem of P/CVE and intervene early or provide programs that keep youth from joining groups that are using violent tactics?
  • In what ways can we get women #InTheRoom and at the decision-making table in preventing, countering and managing Violent Extremism and extremist groups?
  • The feminist question: how do we engage women and girls in P/CVE without reinforcing traditionally gendered stereotypes and community roles? (i.e. we leverage a woman’s role as a mother to rehabilitate extremists, and extremist groups leverage women’s “maternal” role to access communities at their most vulnerable place…how do we reverse this? And recognize women’s agency in participating, too).

Stay tuned for details about our next #FeministFridays discussion and if you would like to join in on the conversation email Women Thrive at advocacy@womenthrive.org