A Kenyan Approach to Preventing Violent Extremism

International actors from the United Nations to the European Union are increasingly recognizing the role of women and women’s organizations in efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism. Still, much of the international debate focuses on the small number of women who join violent extremist groups, rather than the women who prevent violent extremist groups from taking hold in their communities. To support this work and sever extremist groups’ recruiting pipeline, prevention efforts by local or national authorities must engage women in a way that meaningfully addresses gender inequality and popular mistrust of police.

The Kenyan government is strongly committed to women’s empowerment, especially ensuring women’s participation in power structures and decision-making. But this doesn’t fully extend to issues of security. Despite the growing number and visibility of women both preventing and perpetrating terrorist acts—as recently as September 2016, the terror group al-Shabab deployed three women to attack a Kenyan police stationthe Kenyan National Strategy on Counter Violent Extremism, launched in September 2016, is silent on how to engage women and women’s organizations. The strategy includes nine pillars, ranging from media engagement to education and security, yet it does not account for women’s roles in prevention efforts.

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