With terrorism and extremism taking a heavy toll on communities in Africa, there is a need to involve women in the fight against these evils. To be effective, women in Somalia and other affected regions such as the border towns of Mandera and Wajir, need sustained support and partnerships. Although all people are affected by terrorism and violent extremism, women and girls experience specific forms of violence on the basis of their gender.
“The increased use of rape, other forms of sexual violence and abduction from schools as tactics of systematic terror attacks on civilian populations is a demonstration that terrorism and extremism targets and affects women, men, girls and boys in different ways,” says Ms. Bience Gawanas, UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Africa.
The Al Shabaab have not only destroyed lives, human dignity, livelihoods and property but also destabilized the territorial influence of the Somali government, weakened the social fabric of communities they control often introducing drugs and drug-related problems to the society, caused forced displacement and curbed socioeconomic development within marginalised areas of Somalia. This by no means is their agenda for the rest of East Africa, often attacking border towns of Somalia’s neighbours and through threats purporting to exert their influence on the innocent east African communities.
Integrating gender issues, women’s participation, empowerment and leadership in all efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and violent extremism is a key factor. Women should have active participation at the centre of counter-extremism efforts within these regions. This fight is a collective responsibility.
Women are not only the custodians of the family but play a role in rebuilding community cohesion, identity, meaning, inclusive governance, dignity and joy. It is crucial to give women an opportunity to help end terrorism as women are the first to see what is not good in the family and in the community, and that they can contribute to economic development that will in turn keep men engaged in helping their families. Hence building a stable environment for the younger generations to grow exposed to ethical and morally upright values.