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“Women are not just mothers” - gender stereotypes weaken counter-radicalisation projects

  • Dr EggertWomen’s roles and experiences are often overlooked in conventional approaches to counter-radicalisation and security work.
  • Projects which do include women often perpetuate gender stereotypes, viewing women as wives, mothers and sisters able to exercise a moderating influence on “their” men.
  • In fact, women play a vital role in violence prevention, countering and disengagement.
  • New guidelines have been developed with the participation of grassroots organisations in the UK, Germany and Lebanon.

Seeing women only as mothers and victims is harmful to effective counter-radicalisation work, according to a new report by the University of Warwick’s Dr Jennifer Philippa Eggert, in partnership with the Berghof Foundation. The report is believed to be the first such study focusing on grassroots initiatives.

Women are often excluded from participation in counter-radicalisation projects despite many experts agreeing that an inclusive approach, recognising women as practitioners, activists and leaders in their own right rather than stereotyping them as wives, mothers and victims, is vital to long-term success.

In a series of interviews and a workshop Dr Jennifer Philippa Eggert, a member of the University’s Department for Politics and International Studies, and an Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, explored the ways that grassroots organisations in Germany, the UK and Lebanon have successfully integrated women into their work, and developed a set of best practice recommendations published this week.

Dr Eggert said: “In some counter-radicalisation programmes, there is a lot of focus on women’s roles as mothers, and we came to the conclusion that this is quite problematic, because women are not just mothers. They are members of society in a lot of different roles: they are leaders, they are professionals, and yes, they are also mothers, but not just mothers.”

The project was supported by the Berghof Foundation, an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation that supports efforts to prevent political and social violence, and to achieve sustainable peace through conflict transformation.

Recommendations in the paper, published this week, include:

  • Let the grassroots lead: grassroots practitioners have credibility and close relationships with their communities.
  • Avoid problematic gender stereotypes: women should be credited with agency, interests and skills and recognised as practitioners, academics and leaders, not simply seen as mothers or victims.
  • Practice diversity and inclusion: bringing together people from different backgrounds helps avoid the implication that countering radicalisation and extremism is the responsibility of any single faith or community group.
  • Take a multidimensional, research-led approach: there is no one solution as people become radicalised through a variety of processes which depend on the individual and the context.
  • Be aware of potential risks and limitations: grassroots organisations in Lebanon identified a risk of being perceived as ‘Westernised’ in their work with communities and were concerned that their community engagement work could be politicised.

Since 2015, the Berghof Foundation has been supporting the official Muslim authority in Lebanon, Dar al-Fatwa, through a project that seeks to contribute to overall stability and peace in Lebanon by working with key actors in the Sunni community. By supporting Dar al-Fatwa and a wider network of influential social figures in an intra-Sunni dialogue initiative, the Foundation’s aim is to contribute to diffuse tensions, and to develop strategies to address radicalization and strengthen moderate narratives.

Lara Azzam, Projects Manager at Berghof Foundation's office in Lebanon, said: “In the context of the wider aims of the project, the role of women is considered essential in terms of violence prevention, countering and disengagement.

“We aim to be inclusive and exhaustive with our approach to the phenomenon and the stakeholders, in order to support strategies that are realistic, feasible and applicable. Accordingly, the workshop aimed at exploring the work and interests of women in Lebanon in the peace building and counter-radicalization field and providing a safe space to exchange their experience with each other and with Dr Eggert.

“The workshop successfully reached its aims by bringing together the rich expertise of women in the field who would otherwise rarely meet. On the other hand, the workshop served as a stepping stone for potential future cooperation among the attending activists and civil society organisations, closely benefitting from the presentation of the three active organisations is Europe presented in the paper.”

1 March 2018

NOTES

The paper, The Roles of Women in Counter-Radicalisation and Disengagement (CRaD) Processes - Best Practices and Lessons Learned from Europe and the Arab World is available at http://www.berghof-foundation.org/en/publications/

Definitions:

Radicalisation – the process in which radical and extremist ideas are acquired

Extremism – the holding of dogmatic, radical views. Manifested in violent and non-violent forms.

Deradicalisation – the process whereby an individual gives up their radical or extremist beliefs

Disengagement – the process of a person leaving a violent extremist movement.

Counter-radicalisation – efforts to prevent or respond to radicalisation and/or extremism

CRaD: Counter-radicalisation and disengagement.

About the Berghof Foundation

The Berghof Foundation is an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation that supports efforts to prevent political and social violence, and to achieve sustainable peace through conflict transformation.

The foundation has been working in the MENA region since 2008, starting with a National Dialogue Support Project in Lebanon. Since then its engagement has continued to grow, with current and planned activities in Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan.

One of the Foundation’s focal areas is related to capacity building and process support to political transition processes, especially in the field of National Dialogues, multi-party consultations/negotiations and peace and support structures.

Since 2015, the Foundation has been supporting the official Muslim authority in Lebanon, Dar al-Fatwa, through a project that seeks to contribute to overall stability and peace in Lebanon by working with key actors in the Sunni community. By supporting Dar al-Fatwa and a wider network of influential social figures in an intra-Sunni dialogue initiative, the Foundation’s aim is to contribute to diffuse tensions, and to develop strategies to address radicalization and strengthen moderate narratives.

 

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