New research examines the impact of an innovative new project on preventing violent extremism through empowering women
The idea is radical yet simple: when women are empowered and are part of decision-making in their communities, societies are more cohesive, more peaceful, and less susceptible to the spread of violent extremism.
UN Women’s programme “Empowered Women, Peaceful Communities”, funded by the Government of Japan, has been operating in Indonesia and Bangladesh to test this theory of change. And new research says that it’s working.
Last week in New York, UN Women launched a research brief, which assesses the impact of this innovative programming at the community level. “Building an Evidence Base on Empowering Women for Peaceful Communities”, conducted by Monash University, found that women in the programme sites were more aware and empowered to join and lead initiatives to prevent violent extremism than women in non-programme sites. They also showed more confidence in reporting violent extremism and greater knowledge on how their roles in the family and in societies could contribute to its prevention.
But it is not only working for women – it is working for communities. Men in sites where the programme has been implemented were also more aware, confident and empowered to join community initiatives to prevent violent extremism, despite not being the direct beneficiaries. This indicates that the programme not only impacts women, but also their families and their communities.
Building on UN Security Council resolution 2242 (2015), which provides the strongest pronouncement to date of the linkages between women, peace and security and the prevention of violent extremism, this research confirms the important role women play in prevention and response efforts, including their role in promoting social cohesion at the community level.
“Our work has been to lift women’s voices and empower them to prevent violent extremism,” said Hanny Cueva Beteta, UN Women Regional Advisor for Governance, Peace and Security, at the launch in New York. “Women are not just victims – they are preventers and activists. This research shows the impact prioritizing women’s rights, empowerment, participation and leadership can have and makes a strong argument for other PVE programmes to do the same.