ICAN has conducted over a decade of work on gender and extremisms, establishing a track record as the go-to organization for integrating gender analysis and responsiveness in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) work. Our Gender and Extremisms program seeks to transform the policy and practice of P/CVE through gender analysis, technical support, training, and advocacy that advances the pioneering work and expertise of women peacebuilders. 

Key to our strategy is highlighting the success and expertise of women peacebuilders, particularly members of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), in addressing extremisms by promoting peace, resilience, equality, and pluralism, tailored to, and rooted in their local contexts. 

“Women are the first to see, hear, and feel the rise of extremism.”

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, CEO & Founder, ICAN 

“In our work, we reference the history and culture of Pakistan, where women have diffused tensions between communities and put an end to decades-long feuds between tribes.”

Mossarat Qadeem, Co-founder and Director, PAIMAN Alumni Trust

I realized I must change the narrative from ‘Boko Haram,’ which means western education is forbidden, to ‘Boko Halal,’ which means western education is accepted, hence I came up with a counter-narrative.”

— Hamsatu Allamin, Founder, Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development

Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation and Reintegration from Violent Extremism

Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation and Reintegration from Violent Extremism

This report contributes a gendered analysis of approaches to the disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration of women and girls associated with violent extremism. It highlights the gaps in current policies and practice, as well as the solutions that are emerging in part from the experiences and innovations of women-led civil society initiatives. The report concludes with practical recommendations for policymakers and programming guidance for practitioners.

“When women refuse to be limited by gender stereotypes, then they’re treated as pioneers. I want the same kind of respect for men who refuse to use violence, who refuse to dominate others. We need to build new ways of being a man that don’t have their foundations in being dominant and violent – just as much as we need to challenge stereotypes of women as submissive and passive.”

— Deeyah Khan, Documentary Film Director & ICAN Board Member

“The security sector has been perceived as the field of masculinity, despite the fact that women have the sense and gut feeling to be the frontliner, the peace agent and the peacekeeper. The strategy with violent extremism so far has been to attack or overlook (…) we have to do something about it”

Mira Kusumarini, Founder & Director, EMPATIKU Foundation

“Our partners detect early warning signs and work to prevent and counter extremisms. With their access and trust in their communities they are well-positioned to understand the cultural aspects, build counter narratives and take a holistic approach to PVE.”

Stacey Schamber, Senior Program Officer, ICAN

Episode 3 #ICANForum22 Interview Series: Bushra Hyder Qadeem, Founder and Director at Qadims Lumiere School and College with Rosalie Fransen, Senior Program Officer, ICAN.

Gender & Extremisms: Insights from Women Peacebuilders 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women peacebuilders witnessed an increase in xenophobia and extremist messaging as extremist actors filled vacuums left by state failure to meet citizen’s basic health and economic needs. Our WASL calls demonstrate how women peacebuilders are meeting these new challenges. 

Bringing Water, Power, and Peace: How Women Peacebuilders Can Utilize OffGridBox Solutions

Today, over 1 billion people still lack access to clean water and electricity. Environmental and climate change exacerbates this problem and exposes fragile and conflict-affected communities to further risk and insecurity. While the link between resource scarcity and conflict is well understood, the potential for natural resource governance to facilitate peacebuilding is less well researched.

On Thursday, October 5, 2023, ICAN welcomed Bas Berends, Co-founder and Chief Partnership Officer at OffGridBox, to join our WASL community call.

How Women Peacebuilders Respond to Early Warning Signs of Extremisms

Communities are a powerful force for pre-empting and preventing extremisms, provided they are equipped to intervene to ensure that community members do not become trapped in the process of radicalization.

In the WASL community check-in call on March 16, 2023, WASL member Mira Kusumarini of Empatiku, a peacebuilding organization based in Indonesia, presented a new guidebook to build the capacity of communities to do just that, entitled Identifying Early Warning Signs: A Guidebook for Building Community Resilience to Violent Extremism.

How the Counterterrorism Agenda Has Failed Women Peacebuilders – and Where Do We Go from Here?

The crisis in Afghanistan has forced many of us to reckon with the failures of the C/PVE agenda, as well as with the lack of will of the international community to protect the human rights of the women peacebuilders who have been asked to support it.

What is the meaning of counterterrorism when the world has collectively abandoned a country and its people to be governed by a terrorist organization? How can states speak of gender-sensitive P/CVE or of the importance of women, peace, and security, when they have left Afghan women to their fate? To engage in a conversation on these questions and more, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, joined the weekly WASL call on September 23, 2021. Click to read a summary of the call.

Hope versus Extremism: How Women are Using Peacebuilding in the Covid-19 Crisis

While violent extremist groups take advantage of the vulnerable and national governments continue to fail their citizens, women peacebuilders embrace hope, foster interconnectedness, and uphold values of peace and justice. Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Rob Oliphant observed the hope that the WASL partners put forth during the weekly WASL community check-in on 3 September, recognizing that “hope and extremism are on a teeter-totter. You can’t fight extremism with military or violence; you can only fight extremism with hope.”

Read the full summary

How Women Peacebuilders are Balancing Work on COVID-19 and Violent Extremism

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women peacebuilders witnessed an increase in xenophobia and extremist messaging. Weakness in state infrastructure and response has left a vacuum which extremist actors have exploited for their own interests. Women peacebuilders are meeting this challenge by building a counter-narrative that is also grounded in the local culture, religion, and traditions.
“We need to be connected with you and establish new working methods for inclusive, sustainable peace,” remarked State Secretary Marianne Hagen from Norway who joined the 9th weekly call with the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL).

Read the full summary of the call.

Part II: How are Women Peacebuilders Responding to Covid-19?

The second weekly virtual meeting of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) continued the discussion of what women peacebuilders around the world are doing to respond to COVID-19. The conversation also revealed emerging trends in the way the pandemic is impacting peace and security, from reinforcing authoritarian practices to providing fuel for extremist narratives.

How is the Pandemic Exacerbating Extremisms?

The discussion in the third WASL virtual meeting addressed the question: how is the pandemic exacerbating or alleviating xenophobia, ethno-nationalism, religious or other extremisms and are there gendered dimensions to this?
Around the world, women peacebuilders report an uptick in hate speech, xenophobia, and extremist messaging. In The Maldives, for example, extremists are recruiting by brainwashing people into believing the pandemic is the wrath of God for not following religious instruction. In Sri Lanka, Islamic burial rites are being denied despite complying with WHO guidelines and Muslims are being portrayed in mainstream media as spreading the disease. Elsewhere it is the government’s poor or biased response that is feeding into extremist narratives. In Cameroon, for example, responses threaten to exacerbate the conflict because only prisoners from certain regions were given clemency to alleviate the crowding in prisons.

Other ICAN work on Gender & Extremisms 

A Mother is a School: The Influence of Women in Preventing Violent Extremism

Ensuring women are properly equipped with knowledge to counter and prevent extremist ideology can contribute to promoting peaceful coexistence within communities now, as well as for future generations. From 11-12 October, UNDP and ICAN held a two-day workshop on gender responsive approaches to transforming extremisms in Erbil, Iraq.

Gender and Extremisms: ICAN Delivers Training in Cameroon

ICAN facilitated a training on gender and violent extremism organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Unit, from 3-5 March in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The training served as a follow-up to the 2019 workshop delivered by ICAN. Participants traveled from all regions of Cameroon to participate in the workshop.

Click here for more videos from the joint ICAN and UNDP publication, Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Reintegration and Rehabilitation.

“We have to shift from thinking only that we want to prevent violent extremism – we need to look from the positive side – peace, equality. We want to be promoting and enabling pluralism and to recognise our shared humanity as well as our diversity”

— Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Founder & CEO, ICAN

“We were able to prevent teenage boys in our community from traveling to Myanmar to become Jihadis because of the peace education values instilled in our students and the trust we garnered with their families.”

Bushra Qadeem Hyder, Educationalist, Pakistan

“Collaboration between civil society actors [on reintegration and rehabilitation from VE] reduces duplication, identifies gaps, establishes referral networks thus expertise and resources are shared, and more people can receive services”

— Fatima Akilu, Director, Neem Foundation

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