On the 9th of December, the International Crisis Group released a brief titled “A Course Correction for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” (WPS) which focuses on the difficulties and dangers that women who work in certain countries face due to their respective countries’ efforts to counter religious extremism. The United Nation’s Security Council adopted the WPS resolution on 31 October 2000. According to the UN, this resolution is meant to reaffirm the role that women play in conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction.
The briefing highlights the experiences of women who work on countering violent extremism (CVE) programs in Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan and Somalia.
In Somalia, international donors such as the United Kingdom and the United States have spent approximately $168 million on CVE between the years of 2015 and 2021. In comparison, women’s organizations in Somalia received approximately $1.4 million in 2018, a majority of this money coming from the UK. According to Crisis Group, the US had not funded any program’s led by women organizations in Somalia in that same year.
Crisis Group noted that women in Somalia who have left religious extremist groups receive no support in the country. An activist that was interviewed by the organization stated: “I’ve seen a lot of rehabilitation and skills for jobs programs for youth and men leaving militant groups, but never for women. Many girls and women who need such support are instead held in prison”. This indicates that international donors are more willing to use women and women’s groups to amplify CVE messages, but not fund other programs that might be of importance or beneficial to women in Somalia.
One of the main findings that were highlighted by Crisis Group is the various risks that women who work in CVE are exposed to. Women activists in countries like Somalia already face many challenges but once it becomes known that they also engage in counter-extremism work, animosity from the society grows even larger. A Somali activist who was interviewed by Crisis Group stated “[People] have called me and told me they will kill me, because I am against Islam”.
Another significant finding was that conventional CVE approaches underestimate the role that women in Somalia could play in diminishing Al-Shabaab’s influence in the country. “CVE approaches don’t seem to understand the role women actually play. They don’t understand motivating factors and why women support Al-Shabaab [or] their needs to access justice and adjudicate their complaints and conflicts”, stated a Somali researcher that was interviewed by Crisis Group.
Read the full report here.
[Image courtesy of www.crisisgroup.org ]