Category: Young Women Leaders for Peace

Category: Young Women Leaders for Peace

Transforming Counter-Terrorism: From Securitization to Women-led Peace

June 30, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal Dutra Santos and Mallika Iyer

While “violent extremism” escapes an agreed-upon definition, acts recognized as violent extremist by both the international community and local populations continue to pose a threat to international peace and security. Violent extremism conducive to terrorism transcends national borders as well as cultural, religious, political, and socio-economic categories, with attacks occurring from New Zealand to Sri Lanka, from Afghanistan to the United States, and from France to Mali. Nearly 16,000 people were killed in violent extremist attacks in 2018, and violent extremism has driven millions to flee their homes.

Gendered impacts of violent extremism

There is growing evidence that the impact of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, as well as tactics and strategies of violent extremist groups, are strongly gendered. Across all regions, advance of violent extremist groups has been coupled with attacks on gender equality and women’s rights. As a result, violent extremism contributes to an increased use of the bodies of women and girls as a form of currency in the political economy of war. From August 2014 onwards, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forced around 6700 Yazidi women and girls into sexual slavery and domestic servitude across eastern Syria and western Iraq. Although a trial is in process between a Yazidi survivor of sexual slavery and a German perpetrator, thousands of women and girls continue to be held in sexual slavery and forced marriages in Mosul. Similarly, in Nigeria, accounts from the 200 girls forcibly abducted by Boko Haram in 2016 provide evidence of sexual slavery and forced marriages to insurgents. It is evident that globally, sexual violence, including sexual slavery, rape, human trafficking, and early, forced, and child marriage, continues to be a tactic of terrorism, integral to recruitment, resourcing, and radicalization strategies. Women and girls are treated as “wages of war”, being gifted as a form of in-kind compensation or payment to fighters, who are then entitled to resell of exploit them as they wish.

However, the gendered nature of violent extremism conducive to terrorism goes beyond the sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by violent extremist groups. Evidence shows that violent extremist groups have strategically manipulated and exploited gender norms and ideas about masculinity and femininity, to build their support base, justify their actions, and attract new recruits. For example, some groups have used gendered narratives of men’s duty to “save their women” or “revenge their women” as a recruitment tactic. At the same time, violent extremist groups have also used “warped feminism”, emphasizing that they “support and hold dear [their] female force” and creating opportunities for leadership and socio-economic advancement for women.

Gender in preventing violent extremism

Thus, a gender analysis, informed by the perspectives of local women and men, as well as young people, should be at the core of any successful policy or program designed to counter or prevent violent extremism conducive to extremism. However, there have been very limited efforts to meaningfully involve local populations in programs intended to prevent violent extremism. On the other hand, state-sponsored responses to violent extremism have often failed to recognize and adequately address the plurality of roles, experiences, and needs of women and men affected. Securitized, male-dominated, exclusionary counter terrorism measures continue to perpetuate gender stereotypes, which negatively affect women and youth.

The Progress Study on Youth, Peace, and Security highlighted the harmful gendered stereotypes propagated in policy discourse, media, and social norms on violent extremism, which posit young men as radical aggressors, and young women as passive victims without agency. When women’s agency is recognized within the “preventing violent extremism” framework, their roles and contributions are often stereotyped and instrumentalized, and their rights, lives and security put at risk. For example, programs that focus on promoting women’s rights or engaging women solely as a means of preventing or countering violent extremism, run the risk of “agenda hijacking” and distract from the “wider structural realities that produce gender inequality, exclusion and violence.” Moreover, programs that propose to use women’s roles as mothers, wives and sisters to position them as “gate-keepers”, or intelligence gatherers, not only perpetuate traditional gender roles, but may also put women at risk, if not designed in a culture- and conflict-sensitive manner. As a result, the interplay between patriarchal gender norms and violent extremism remains unaddressed. 

There is also a documented tendency for strategies to prevent and/or counter violent extremism conducive to terrorism to be used as political tools. This is clear, for example, in the tendency of some strategies and programs’ to over-emphasize the role of religion and ideology in fueling violent extremism, which “conveniently allows the focus to remain on the behavior and propaganda of the violent extremists, and not on socioeconomic or political conditions in a society where the government might bear some responsibility.” Feminist activists have denounced the negative impact of counter terror policies and hardline security measures which undermine efforts to build sustainable peace and promote gender equality. Counter terrorism has also been used as a justification for crackdowns on civil society and women human rights defenders.

Global policy framework on preventing and countering violent extremism

The United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy adopted in 2006 and the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism adopted in 2015, call for a shift from securitized, state-led counter terror policies to sustainable, inclusive strategies to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE) conducive to terrorism. Such approaches require in-depth gender analysis, and meaningful participation of women and youth. The Women and Peace and Security (WPS)[i] and Youth and Peace and Security (YPS)[ii] agendas provide an important policy framework for the meaningful inclusion of women and youth in conflict prevention, including PCVE. The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2242 on WPS emphasized the importance of women’s participation in PCVE, and urged Member States and UN entities to empower women, youth, and religious and cultural leaders to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.  UNSCR 2250 and 2419 on YPS recognized the critical contributions of youth, including young women, in preventing violent extremism, and promoting sustainable peace more broadly. 

Nevertheless, countless women, young women, and girls remain excluded from PCVE, and decision-making on peace and security more broadly. Gender-blind PCVE strategies fail to address the exclusion of women and girls from political decision-making, education and economic opportunities, which increases their vulnerability to discrimination, sexual violence, and radicalization.

Effective and gender-responsive PCVE strategies must view prevention of violent extremism as part of a broader effort to build sustainable peace. They should invest in young women’s empowerment, participation, education, and leadership. Moreover, there is a need for more rigorous monitoring of the effectiveness and impacts (both positive and negative) of PCVE, and to learn from the robust and growing body of evidence on PCVE strategies.

As the UN agencies and Member States prepare for the High-Level Conference on Counter Terrorism on“Building Institutional and Social Resilience to Terrorism”,over the coming weeks, GNWP will publish a series of articles that examine the impact of violent extremism and PCVE efforts on women and young women, and the roles that women and young women play in addressing root causes of violence and violent extremism in their communities. We will share the perspectives of members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program in the Philippines, who provide an alternative to the State’s securitized Anti-Terrorism measures, by running a peace education campaign with a specific focus on PCVE, gender equality and sustainable peace. We will highlight the achievements of YWL in Indonesia, who challenge the presumption that religious ideologies are at the root of violent extremism, and instead support local businesses to address the economic roots of violence, and build communities that are more gender-equal, peaceful, and resilient to violent extremism conducive to terrorism. We will spotlight young Afghan women’s viewpoint on violent extremism and PCVE in their country. We will share reflections from young people in Mali on why a gender perspective is necessary in their country’s efforts on PCVE. In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we will also examine how this humanitarian emergency impacts on violent extremism and PCVE efforts, particularly in local communities.

The voices of young women amplified through this series send a clear message: violent extremism is a complex phenomenon that intersects with other forms of violence and insecurity in local communities. As such, PCVE efforts should be seen in a holistic manner, and should focus on addressing root causes of violence – including exclusion and gender inequality.

Through the series we will demonstrate that women, including young women, can successfully address the negative impact of violent extremism and its root causes, provided that they are recognized and empowered to be leaders and decision-makers in their communities. We also argue that such women-led approaches result in a more comprehensive and holistic approach to PCVE, by focusing on root causes of conflict and violence broadly, rather than singling out ideologically-motivated or extremist violence.   

Recommendations:

Ahead of the 2020 United Nations High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter Terrorism Agencies of Member States, we call on the Member States and other relevant actors to:

  • Carry out rigorous gender-responsive and conflict and crisis analysis when formulating and implementing their PCVE strategies, including through investing in sex-disaggregated data and gender-responsive analysis on the drivers and impact of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and developing gender-responsive risk assessment tools.
  • Ensure full and meaningful participation of grassroots women, young women, and girls at all levels of the design, implementation and monitoring of PCVE strategies, in a way that recognizes their diverse experiences, gives them power to shape decisions and design of the PCVE strategies, includes them in robust and institutionalized mechanisms to monitor the effectiveness of PCVE measures, and does not commodify or instrumentalize their contributions. 
  • Refrain from securitized approaches to countering violent extremism, and invest in preventative approaches that address root causes of violent extremism, protect human rights, build community resilience, and are led by women, including young women.
  • Review existing counter terrorism, PCVE and “de-radicalization” strategies and measures to ensure that they are gender-responsive and rooted in respect for human rights and gender equality.
  • Recognize and adequately address the gendered nature of violent extremism and its impacts, including sexual violence, sexual slavery, early, forced, and child marriage, human trafficking, kidnapping and murder, and restricted access to education and sexual health and reproductive services.
  • Harmonize National Action Plans (NAPs) on PVE with those on WPS, and meaningfully include women and young people in the development of the NAPs.

Click here for more information on GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace program, and how it contributes to sustainable, locally-led and gender-responsive PCVE.


[i] Women Peace and Security agenda comprises of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), and 2467 (2019). UNSCR 2242 made an explicit link between WPS and PVE, and called “for the greater integration by Member States and the United Nations of their agendas on women, peace and security, counter-terrorism and countering-violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism.”

[ii] Youth Peace and Security agenda comprises of UNSCR 2250 and 2419. Both resolutions underscore the roles young people play in preventing violent extremism. UNSCR 2250 urges Member States to “increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels (…) including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism.”

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

April 23, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Katrina Leclerc

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Agnieszka Fal Dutra-Santos

“Afghan women have been fighting for their right to be meaningfully included in the peace process with the Taliban throughout the past 20 years. Today, we are afraid that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this progress will be lost, and provisions on women rights will be removed from the peace agreement.” This concern, shared by Sadaf Tahib, the Communication Associate of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association (AWWDA), was echoed by many of over 50 youth peacebuilders from 11 countries, who came together in an online meeting to share their experiences of preventing conflict and violent extremism, building peace, and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

The meeting was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, on April 15, 2020. It was the first-time members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan, came together. They were joined by women and youth leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Ukraine. By discussing the peace and security problems and the solutions to them amidst the pandemic and despite network connectivity issues, the women and youth peacebuilders sent a powerful message: COVID-19 will not stop us!

The event was also an opportunity to launch the Toolkit and Film for Young Women and Girls on Literacy, Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Media, and Theater. The toolkit and film are evidence-based, context-specific resources for elevating the voices and work of young women in preventing conflict and violent extremism drawn from GNWP’s work. They were developed based on the experiences of young women peacebuilders in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and good practices drawn from GNWP’s work around the world.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows including the aggravated levels of personal anxiety and stress, the women and peacebuilders underscored the need to hold regular discussions and continue supporting each other. Members of the YWL shared their frontline initiatives to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and youth peacebuilders. This is showcased in the new podcast ‘GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security’: Episode 25 on the Young Women Leaders Global Dialogue.

Young women’s frontline leadership

Speaking from Bangladesh, Young Women Leaders Machen Hia and Mathenu Rakhine, shared that they joined the YWL program to “make sure that there is peace and gender equality in [their] community in Cox’s Bazar.” They emphasized that there is still a lot of challenges, and highlighted their contributions to improving the gender sensitivity of humanitarian emergency response to the influx of 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They also shared their experience pre-COVID of conducting gender-sensitive, age-appropriate fundamental literacy and numeracy classes to Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Young Women Leaders are workingto prevent, support and counter increased sexualized violence during the pandemic. During the meeting, Emilie Katondolo and Nicole Musimbi, shared that this work includes using media and technology to dismantle and challenge narratives of ‘victims’ to ‘survivors’ of sexual violence, and ensuring accurate and updated information is provided to women and youth across the communities of Eastern DRC. “Through our program, we try to provide women with opportunities to make income, so that they can improve their financial situation and change their life,” said Nicole.

In Indonesia, Young Women Leaders for Peace, conduct community-level advocacy on women’s rights; gender equality; youth, peace and security (YPS); and human security. Prior to COVID-19, young women have held advocacy meetings in their communities and have developed strong relationships with district-level leaders. Nur Aisyah Maullidah, Ilmiyah Maslahatul and Ririn Anggraeni, shared that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the YWL Indonesia have held online English classes to continue their capacity-building amidst the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Young Women Leaders are also at the forefront of COVID-19 response. Sophia Garcia and Lynrose Genon, presented that young women are distributing face masks, disinfectants, and ‘dignity kits’ to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met. These kits are prepared by YWL members and distributed to internally displaced women and youth in Sagonsongan Transitional Temporary Shelter in Marawi, a city ravaged by armed conflict between extremist groups and the Philippine Armed Forces.

Speaking from South Sudan, Elizabeth Biniya, a member ofYoung Women Leaders, and Nyuon Susan Sebit, former Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at GNWP, discussed their efforts in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. The South Sudanese young women leaders are using community radio to raise awareness of domestic violence and the available support for those affected. They also disseminate information on preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. Additionally, the South Sudanese Young Women Leaders organize theater performances in Torit, South Sudan to raise awareness on women’s rights, gender equality, and peace and security among local populations.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is important to recognize and promote the synergies between the women and peace and security (WPS) and youth and peace and security (YPS) agendas and how they are linked to humanitarian emergencies. This is highlighted during this global COVID-19 pandemic as we see young women peacebuilders who step up and become first responders in their local communities. In doing so, they not only mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis but they also secure the gains of Afghan women and all other women and youth peacebuilders who have been demanding to meaningfully participate in peace processes and all levels of decision-making.

Want to support young women leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic? Share and donate here.

GNWP is grateful for the support of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and the collaboration of the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta – Bangladesh for the production of the Toolkit and Film.

Please see also other articles produced by the GNWP on COVID-19 and the women and peace and security, and youth and peace and security agendas:

Young Women & Girls Read, Lead & Build Peaceful Communities

Young Women & Girls Read, Lead & Build Peaceful Communities

A publication of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, funded by NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.

© 2019 Global Network of Women Peacebuilders Printed in New York, New York, USA

Authors

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Mallika Iyer, and Prativa Khanal

Module author

Literacy and Numeracy: Saifuzzaman Rana

Peer Reviewer and Editor

Eleonore Veillet-Chowdhury

Contributor and Copy-Editor

Katrina Leclerc

Publication Coordinator

Mallika Iyer

Layout and Design

Pam Liban

Acknowledgements

We thank the participants of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace capacity building trainings in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and Poso, Central Sulawesi and Lamongan, East Java, Indonesia. We also thank GNWP’s local partners: Jago Nari Unnyaon Sangsta and the Asian Muslim Action Network Indonesia for sharing their experience and expertise.

We are grateful to NAMA Women Advancement Establishment for their generous support, continuous partnership, and valuable inputs into the report.

Watch our film!

Charting a Feminist Present and Future: Young Women for Peace and Leadership Program Recognized by the United Nations Secretary-General in Report to Security Council on UNSCR 2250

From DRC to Indonesia, from Bangladesh to South Sudan, young women defy gender and age stereotypes and act as leaders, peacebuilders and agents of change in their communities. They are first responders in humanitarian crises, prevent recruitment by violent groups by building a culture of peace, and set up small businesses to increase their financial independence and support their families. In the absence of formal mechanisms and opportunities to meaningfully participate in peace processes and social, political and economic life, young women have forged their own avenues to lead peacebuilding efforts and movements for progressive social transformation.

Learning Together, Inspiring Each Other: Regional Girl Ambassadors for Peace Training in Bangladesh and Indonesia

Learning Together, Inspiring Each Other: Regional Girl Ambassadors for Peace Training in Bangladesh and Indonesia

November 13, 2019 by Mallika Iyer  

Edited by Mavic Cabrera Balleza

“I used to be like the moon, receiving light from only one star. I was focused only on my personal interests and education. After joining the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program, I have learned that women are empowered by so many international laws and capable of anything they set their minds to. I’m like the sun now. I can provide light to help other young women grow,” Elza, a young woman from Lamongan, East Java, Indonesia shared.

With support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders has created a strong network of 110 young women leaders in conflict situations and humanitarian emergencies in Bangladesh and Indonesia who support and inspire each other to realize their full potentials as leaders, peacebuilders, and change agents addressing peacebuilding and preventing and countering violent extremism in their communities. By promoting synergies between the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) and Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agendas, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace, a member of GNWP’s Young Women for Peace and Leadership (YWPL) program, has enhanced the leadership potential and peacebuilding skills of young women who, as significant actors in their local communities, contribute to an invincible youth movement for peace, equality, and sustainable development.

Between September 3 and 9, 2019, GNWP and its local partners organized a regional Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) training in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to foster solidarity between young women leaders in Bangladesh and Indonesia. The training also facilitated information and experience-sharing of good practices and lessons learned in their efforts to advocate for the role of young women in peacebuilding and countering violent extremism in both countries and strengthened the regional youth network of young women peacebuilders.

Guided by expert advice and facilitation from GNWP Board Members Bandana Rana, CEDAW Committee Chair from Nepal, and Independent Senator Marilou McPhedran from Canada, the GA4P from Bangladesh and Indonesia who participated in the regional training compared and contrasted the peace and security situations in their countries and communities. They identified common issues such as the prevalence of early, forced, and child marriage, radical and violent extremist groups, and gender inequality perpetuated by social norms and antiquated laws.

Bangladesh has the second-highest the prevalence of early, forced, and child marriage in the world; similarly, Indonesia has approximately 1,459,000 child brides, the eighth highest absolute number of child brides in the world.[1] Many of the GA4P in Bangladesh and Indonesia personally experience familial – or societally-induced – early, forced, and child marriage.[2] “My parents hide my school bag and books in an effort to prevent me from going to school. They are forcing me to get married. That prompted me to run away from my home. Now that I am living alone, it is difficult for me to financially support myself and pay my school fees,” a GA4P from Bangladesh, shared during the regional training. In response, the GA4P from Indonesia drafted and distributed a statement condemning early, forced, and child marriage, as a fundamental violation of human rights, which denies girls their childhood, disrupts higher education, limits socio-economic opportunities, increases the risk of intimate partner violence, and threatens the health of girls and young women. During the regional training, the Indonesian GA4P shared their experiences in collecting signatures from prominent local youth and civil society organizations for the statement. They explained how they were able to effectively communicate their demands to district-level leaders such as the Regent and Vice-Regent of Poso, Central Sulawesi, and Lamongan, East Java, resulting in these leaders’ support for all effective and appropriate measures to abolish traditional practices, which permit or support early, forced, and child marriage.

During the regional training, the young women also discussed the importance of regional advocacy for gender-responsiveness to humanitarian emergencies such as the Rohingya crisis. Rohingya refugee women and girls in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh live in overcrowded and mismanaged camps, where they remain vulnerable to sexual violence, devastating floods, and cyclones. Indonesia too is reported to be hosting a population of 12,000 Rohingya refugees in Aceh, Sulawesi, and North Sumatra. Despite significant cultural and language barriers, Indonesians in small fishing communities in Aceh have been welcoming and sympathetic to the refugees, offering food, shelter, and other donations. However, as time has passed, humanitarian relief aid provided by international organizations and the Indonesian government has been depleted. Meanwhile, the number of reports of Rohingya refugees attempting to smuggle themselves to Indonesia and Malaysia in rickety fishing boats in order to escape the dire conditions in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh is steadily increasing. It has become clear that regional cooperation is necessary to address the treatment of the Rohingya people.

Local Bangladeshi women from host communities and Rohingya women and girl refugees living in refugee camps continue to face marginalization and discrimination as a result of the lack of access to education and other basic social services. To curb gender discrimination and improve access to education, the Bangladeshi GA4P have conducted 20 gender-sensitive, age-appropriate functional literacy and numeracy classes with over 180 women and girls. In addition to empowering Rohingya refugee and host community women to read and write, the literacy classes provided a safe space for Rohingya refugee women to share personal issues related to sexual violence in the camps (including intimate partner violence), child marriage, security concerns, and dowries. The GA4P in Bangladesh play a crucial role in dispelling anti-Rohingya rhetoric and negative perceptions developing within host communities as a result of unequal access to and competing demands for resources and social services. The young women work to create positive dialogues between the two communities, beginning with providing basic literacy and numeracy education to Rohingya refugee and Bangladeshi host community women in Cox’s Bazar.

The Indonesian young women observed their Bangladeshi counterparts as they facilitated a gender-sensitive, age-appropriate functional literacy and numeracy class with Rohingya refugee women and girls in Balukhali Refugee Camp (Camp 9). Inspired by the leadership and teaching skills of the Bangladeshi young women, the Indonesian GA4P committed to working together to develop joint advocacy strategies to support the empowerment of Rohingya refugee women and girls in both countries.

Ultimately, learning about the experiences of other young women leaders in similar yet different cultural, socio-political, and economic contexts during the regional training inspired and motivated the GA4P to further the youth-led advocacy movement for sustainable peace and development. The Girl Ambassadors for Peace are a strong and diverse regional network of young women who represent different religions and ethnic minorities. With enhanced capacities as leaders, peacebuilders, and change agents, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace continue to contribute to gender equality, sustainable development and inclusive and long-lasting peace in their local communities. 


[1] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/indonesia/, accessed 07-27-2019

[2] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/indonesia/, accessed 07-27-2019