Preventing Violent Extremism
Women and girls are differentially affected by violent extremism. They are often the first victims of violent extremist groups, experiencing horrific violations of their rights. Women are also impacted by counterterrorism policies, which can curtail their rights and impact their quality of life. Increasingly, they are themselves being recruited, forcibly or willingly, to these groups -– and are also playing a role in recruiting other men and women.
But women are not just victims or perpetrators of this phenomenon. Many have been and continue to be on the frontlines of prevention efforts. Their roles are multifaceted and include shaping community and family values, influencing decision making of potential recruits, identifying and intervening at early signs of radicalization that lead to terrorism, female imams preaching religious tolerance, women using different forms of media to promote counter narratives, and female police officers engaging with local communities to collect information.
Currently, approaches to countering terrorism and violent extremism are going beyond military and security strategies to focus on prevention. Attention is increasingly turning to the role women play in prevention and response efforts including their role in promoting social cohesion at the community level.
Given the gendered underpinnings of this agenda and the gendered approach used by violent extremist groups in their recruitment, the very promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is in itself a counter-measure to the spread of radicalization. However, women remain marginalized from decision-making processes, particularly at senior levels, where such strategies are designed and implemented.
UN Women’s Approach
In order to effectively engage with the gendered dynamics of violent extremism and reverse its growing trend, it is critical that prevention and response efforts prioritize women’s rights, empowerment, participation and leadership— both at the community level as well as in national decision-making.
Our theory of change
UN Women has identified four key areas where integrating a gender perspective can best strengthen responses to terrorism and violent extremism. Our 4-track approach to preventing violent extremism targets high-risk areas across the Asia and Pacific region:
- Empowerment - Promote women’s leadership and economic empowerment to promote peaceful coexistence, build social cohesion and strengthen resilience at the community level.
- Participation - Increase women’s participation and leadership in efforts to prevent and respond to terrorism and violent extremism.
- Research - Expand and deepen a data-driven evidence base on the drivers of extremist violence by sex and its impact on women and girls.
- Policy influence - Ensure national and regional counter-terrorism frameworks integrate gender and are informed by experiences of women.
GENDER-SENSITIVE NATIONAL ACTION PLANS ON PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: Lessons from Asia and the Pacific empowerment.Read more
SETTING THE SCENE FOR PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN SOUTH EAST AND SOUTH ASIA: A WAY FORWARD FOR WOMEN’S ENGAGEMENT IN INDONESIA AND BANGLADESH Read more
PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF THE NATIONAL SURVEY ON THE THREAT OF RADICALIZATION AMONG MUSLIM MEN AND WOMEN IN INDONESIA Read more
Through this programme, UN Women is contributing to the implementation of the Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism and to the achievement of the Agenda 2030 goals, particularly SDG 16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, and Goal 5 on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The research examined how the programme has impacted social cohesion, women’s empowerment, community empowerment, and preventing and countering extremist ideologies in the programme communities in Indonesia and Bangladesh.
A case study of Bangladesh and Indonesia. | This study identified the many ways in which women and men influence values, attitudes and behaviours within their communities, from raising awareness of violent extremism, challenging belief systems that cause harm to women and children, to advocating education for women and girls.
Following the siege of Marawi in the southern Philippines, UN Women conducted a series of Listening Processes in the surrounding region, giving women survivors of the siege the opportunity to share their stories.
The results show that, in total, women performed over 215,000 searches for content related to terrorism and violent extremism in these four countries over a two-month period. Overall, women performed 32 per cent of all recorded searches.
National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in the Philippines — The role of women in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding is a foundational consideration of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Through consultation workshops organized in partnership with the government of Philippines.
The research found that common problems existed within the families, including psychosocial and socio-economic vulnerabilities, a lack of access to justice, and no gender-sensitive religious or other platforms for support.
The research reported here examines why and how radicalisation to violence occurs from a gender perspective. This policy brief analyses the underexplored relationship between attitudes and practices indicating misogyny and support for violent extremism.
UN Women and the Wahid Foundation, and implemented under UN Women’s regional programme “Empowered Women, Peaceful Communities”, funded by the government of Japan. There are now ten Peace Villages across Indonesia, and the idea continues to spread.