The Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) brings together existing women rights and peace practitioners, organizations, and networks actively engaged in preventing extremism and promoting peace, rights and pluralism, to enable their systematic and strategic collaboration.

‘Wasl’ means to ‘connect’ in Arabic, Urdu and Persian.

“Women’s rights activists are the longest-standing socially-rooted, transnational groups mobilizing for peace, countering rising extremism, and providing an alternative vision for the future.” — WASL founding statement

Our Approach

We cultivate vertical, horizontal and diagonal connections

Vertical Connections
  • Facilitate access for national and grassroots women-led organizations to engage substantively in the international countering violent extremism (CVE) debate by collating their perspectives on critical issues (e.g. security, economics, education) and publishing policy papers. This includes information sharing and analyses from the ground to increase knowledge of the gender dimensions of violent extremism with a focus on solutions to root causes and contributions to preventative action.
  • Link women’s networks, practitioners, and organizations more effectively to governmental processes, enabling them to share lessons learned and shape state and multilateral policies and programs based on ground realities and needs.
  • Develop shared, conceptually-sound solutions to challenges the security-oriented approaches and narratives of existing CVE policies and programs.
  • Avoid duplication of efforts and provide a means of coordination and mutual development and support based on a division of labor and core strengths among INGOs, government, and multilateral organizations.
Horizontal Connections
  • Provide opportunities to enable the sharing of strategies and lessons learned across countries between grassroots, national civil society actors, and regional and international activists/organizations facing similar manifestations of extremism, including “know-how” and good practices for scaling up successful and promising initiatives.
  • Ensure allocation of resources to support innovative solutions locally and internationally in a range of spheres — notably practical community-based work, messaging and communications, production of knowledge, etc.
  • Connect existing women-led organizations and resource persons working on extremism and promoting peace to deepen solidarity and strengthen their impact.
  • Initiate country-focused public surveys and other efforts to tap into the aspirations of potentially vulnerable populations and use that data to articulate a coherent and realistic alternative vision with attention to improvements in education, justice, economic, and other human security policies.
Diagonal Connections
  • Include and reach out to other sectors – notably arts and culture, journalism, religious communities, the private sector, and governmental agencies to echo and amplify the voices and perspectives emerging from women’s organizations.
  • Draw on each sector and organization’s unique competencies to ensure innovative mass outreach and build wider public participation in disseminating the vision, values, and messages of WASL members.

The Coming of Age of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; 21 in 2021

The People and Perspectives Driving A Transformative Global Peace and Security Agenda.

The 21 in 2021 series is moderated by Sanam Naraghi Anderlini and features members of WASL alongside other individuals working as peacebuilders, delivering development humanitarian relief, working for justice and security sector reform and the prevention of sexual violence and violent extremism. The series is co-hosted by ICAN, the LSE Centre for Women Peace and Security and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy,

Annual Forum

ICAN’s Women, Peace and Security Forum is an annual event dedicated to providing women peacebuilders and human rights defenders a safe space for learning, collaboration and solidarity. Forum participants are active members of WASL with demonstrable expertise in innovative practices, activism advocacy and thought leadership in the realm of women’s rights, peace, security and C/PVE.

Marie-Joëlle Zahar is Pushing the Boundaries for Women in Security & Peacebuilding

Marie-Joëlle Zahar has been an ICAN Board Member since 2019. In this interview, she reflects on her early experiences during the war in Lebanon and how they shaped her journey in the world of conflict resolution, peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction, and gendered work. Marie-Joëlle shares stories of her time as a Senior Expert on the Standby Team of Mediation Experts at the UNDPPA, what it was like being one of the few women in international mediation spaces, and her advice for the next generation of women peacebuilders and WPS practitioners. Read more to view the full conversation.

“We are not afraid, we are resisting”: A strong message from the Director of Myanmar’s Gender Equality Network

At 8pm every evening since February 1, 2021 hundreds of thousands across Myanmar bang pots and pans to demonstrate their non-violent resistance to the military coup. This symbolic act is part of the Red Ribbon campaign, a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement. The movement’s message is clear, explains May Sabe Phyu, Director of the Gender Equality Network (GEN) and a member of WASL: “We are not afraid; we are resisting the coup.”

“Let us go where the guns are loud”: How Esther Omam Builds Peace in Cameroon

“Women peacebuilders run to the problem when everyone else is running away,” said ICAN’s CEO and Founder, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini. This statement could not be truer of award-winning Cameroonian peacebuilder, Esther Omam. Esther’s career has seen her go from development worker to humanitarian responder to mediator and peacebuilder, in the South-West region of Cameroon.

Peace Heroes: Najlaa El Sheikh Helps Syrian Women Refugees Become Business Owners

“I often dream the jasmine returns to Syria to decorate and perfume our streets.”
As the Syrian regime rained barrel bombs on her hometown in Syria, Najlaa and her family were forced to flee to Turkey where she established the first organization led by a Syrian woman to help other women refugees with literacy, economic empowerment, and psychosocial support.
Peace Hero Najlaa El Sheikh speaks to ICAN about her journey, her work, and her dreams.

Peace Heroes: Muna Luqman and the Role of Women in War-Stricken Yemen

We spoke to Yemeni peace activist Muna Luqman, co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network and member of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), about the war in Yemen, its devastating ramifications, and about the strength of Yemeni women in the face of this destruction.

Peace Heroes: Indonesia’s Mira Kusumarini Shows How Reintegrating Ex-extremists is Done

Mira Kusumarini talks to ICAN about C-SAVE’s efforts to alter the lives of returnees and prepare their communities to accept them.

Peace Heroes: Why Nancy Yammout Met with Extremists in Lebanese Prisons

Nancy Yammout speaks to ICAN about Rescue Me’s efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners found guilty of terrorism —and how, over nine years, they’ve engaged with some 680 prisoners, and been pivotal in blocking their re-recruitment into terror groups.

Peace Heroes: Deeyah Khan is Deconstructing Extremism with Documentary Film

Renowned documentary filmmaker Deeya Khan is recognized as a leader in the entertainment industry and on the human rights and peace-building scene. She spoke to us about her work, her vision and what she’s learned about extremism by confronting it face-to-face.

Peace Heroes: How Nigerian Psychologist Fatima Akilu Rehabilitates Extremist Societies

Dr. Fatima Akilu spoke to ICAN’s Aya Nader about how extremism affects women in her country, discussed rehabilitation and reintegration of extremists, and shared what motivates her to keep the fight for peace ignited.

Rodolfo Domínguez Márquez , Fights Femicide with Accountability in Mexico

Let’s celebrate the feminist men who fight for women, Rodolfo Domiguez Marquiz courageously fights Femicide with Accountability in Mexico

Peace Hero: Mobina Jaffer, The Canadian Senator Who has been Championing Women in Peace and Security for Years

On International Women’s Day, ICAN’s Peace Heroes series honors Senator Mobina Jaffer, whose life and career capture the spirit and essence of the day. We spoke to her about her experiences as a female envoy and mediator and her persistent struggle to ensure women’s participation in peacemaking and security issues.

Mossarat Qadeem and Tolana Mothers: Cutting off Extremists’ Resources—One Thread at a Time

Mossarat Qadeem and the Tolana Mothers convince a dozen women to stop stitching suicide jackets for extremist groups.

How Hamsatu Allamin Changed Boko Haram to Boko Halal in Nigeria

How Hamsatu Allamin Changed Boko Haram to Boko Halal

Ahlem Nasraoui Fights Terrorism in Tunisia with Entrepreneurship

Ahlem Nasraoui Fights Terrorism in Tunisia with Entrepreneurship

Pakistani Activist Mossarat Qadeem Responds to Donald Trump

We spoke to Mossarat Qadeem, Executive Director of PAIMAN Trust, about Trump’s threat to cut financial aid from Pakistan, and about her own work.

Faiza Dhocob is Fighting Terror in Somalia in the Face of Destruction

Faiza Dhocob is Fighting Terror in Somalia in the Face of Destruction

Sureya Roble is Bringing Women to the Table to Fight Extremism in Kenya

  Originally published as part of the Peace Heroes series on Ms Magazine Photos of dark skinned men, sometimes even boys, in military uniform holding big guns repeatedly emerge in the media. It is a sad fact, but communities in Kenya have been radicalized. The...

How Visaka Dharmadasa’s Tragedy Led to a Rise in Sri Lankan Peace Activism

Visaka Dharmadasa led a delegation of mothers of missing servicemen into the jungles to meet with the guerillas who were responsible for their sons’ fate. She talked to us about her experience walking into the lion’s den—literally.

Bushra Qadeem Hyder on Fighting Extremism with Education in Pakistan

Bushra Qadeem Hyder, a pioneer in education, speaks of her journey of triumphs and challenges bringing up the next generation in a country saturated in conflict.

Ghada Rifai on Building a Better Future for Syria

In the midst of war, an ever-expanding network of dedicated Syrians have been working to heal the torn society. At the center is Ghada Rifai, a trained architect who has built a human network rooted in the values of peace, diversity and non-violence.

Lucy Talgieh is Promoting a More Peaceful Homeland in Palestine

Lucy Talgieh, a newly-elected municipal representative in Bethlehem, Palestine talks about women’s rights, eradicating extremism and promoting a more peaceful homeland.

Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini Struggles to Ensure Women Peacebuilders are Present in Peace Negotiations

Born in Iran and a refugee in the UK by the age of 11, Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini has been a leading international advocate and peace strategist for 20 years.

Robinah Rubimbwa on How Women Played a Crucial Role in Peace Talks with LRA in Uganda

Robinah Rubimbwa, long-time peace activist, poet and feminist, recounts her story and discusses how women continue to shape Uganda.

How Khedija Arfaoui’s Tragedy Strengthened her Peace Activism in Tunisia

Long-time Tunisian peace activist and academic Khedija Arfaoui speaks about her work, peace in the Middle East, and women’s pivotal role in change.

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