During conflict, women play a significant role in the social and even political aspects of their communities, and given the opportunity, can be viable resources in countering violent extremism. Studies suggest that family ties and women’s roles in the society and their families create psychological barriers for brothers, husbands, sons or other male relatives to join violent extremist groups. On the other hand, women may also serve as key motivators for male family members to join said groups.
In many environments where the risk of violent extremism is high, development falls short, governance is weak, access to education and training is limited, economic opportunities are few and unemployment is high. Activities directed at countering violent extremism tend to be reactive in nature, seeking to contain and reduce active support for an ongoing radical group.
However, to truly reduce violent extremism, work within communities must be proactive to create bridges between groups and amplify community characteristics that guard against infiltration by violent extremists.
Despite extensive discussion on CVE, there is limited policy incorporating women into the CVE policy making process and its implementation in practice. Furthermore and due to the current instability which has created difficulties for organizations to implement anything on ground, Libya has not seen implementation of any CVE strategies, either domestic or international in origin.
This offers a unique opportunity for women to develop CVE measures from the ground up, incorporating their perspectives at every step of the process. Libyan women as mothers, wives, and caretakers have unique and significant influence in their homes and communities, and with further education and training provided to women focusing on how to recognize possible radicalization or extremist activity, women have the extraordinary and undervalued opportunity to play a pivotal role in CVE.
Nevertheless, there are possible approaches to this issue, such as facilitating partnerships between international organizations and local NGOs to organize and conduct programs that focus on educating women in urban and rural areas on the consequences of radicalization, extremism and terrorism; as it has been shown that women have critical contributions to make at every level of the struggle against violent extremism, especially in rural areas of Libya and surrounding countries, where mothers, firsthand, have a role in detecting radicalization in their families.
Also, creating media and messaging outlets in Libya, with the overwhelming flux of people into Libya from bordering countries, this recommendation would make it easier to relay the information and to change the minds of those influenced by radicalization before they move into the relatively stable areas.In addition to implementing programs for rehabilitation and reintegration of women arrested on suspicions of terrorism.
While acknowledging that these measures may not end the concept of violent extremism, they could play a pivotal role in restricting its influence on the community.
Written by Farah Al-Atrash
This has been prepared as part of the ALI-US Department of Sate Policy Memo and references research and reports by international organizations
Farah Al-Atrash is a 24 year old IT Specialist who has graduated from Faculty of Information Technology, University of Tripoli. She has participated in activities and programs pertinent to women’s rights and peace-building. Farah is interested in youth-centered activities which focus on conflict-stricken regions with the goals of fostering inclusive/constructive solutions, teaching new thinking skills and valuing women’s role in the society.