Women and violent extremism on Kenya's Coast: Causes, Impact and Solutions
Badurdeen, Fathima Azmiya
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Executive Summary There has been significant attention by the civil society, donors and government on the emerging phenomenon of violent extremism (VE) associated to women and girls in the Coastal region of Kenya. In spite of this focus, there is limited research on women and girls radicalization and recruitment into violent extremist organizations. As seen in this study and many others, the involvement of women and girls into violent extremism has gained considerable attention mainly in their supporting roles in violent extremism, logistic support for violent extremist activities, their roles as recruiters, and recently in their front line roles as combatants. However, relatively little of a systematic nature is known about women and girls involvement into violent extremism. The Coast Education Centre (COEC) embarked in designing and conducting this research study Women and Violent Extremism on Kenya's Coast: Causes, Impact, and Solutions, to help fill the existing knowledge gap to support the Strengthening Community Resilience against Violent Extremism (SCORE) program of USAID/Kenya and East Africa. Specifically, the study seeks to provide insights into the following questions: What are the local understandings available on women involved in violent extremism in the coastal counties in Kenya? What are the demographic factors that indicate the vulnerability of young women in the aforementioned counties in Kenya? Why do young women get attracted to violent radicalization and extremism in the aforementioned counties in Kenya? How do young women get lured or end up as members of these radical organizations? How are women affected due to violent extremism? Finally, what are the community responses in mitigating violent extremism among young women? The study examines community perceptions related to a range of key issues, trends and causes on women and girls radicalization and recruitment such as ideology, the role of the family, low income households, and peer and social media influence. Further, the study examined the impact of violent extremism on women and girls and community solutions to mitigate violent extremism among women and girls. In-depth interviews with key informants, focus group discussions and the narratives of the affected were used to inform the study. The study was strengthened by a desk review conducted prior to the study. The qualitative methodology included an in depth analysis of factors in violent radicalization and extremism which had been under explored.The analysis probed into known factors such as the role of family, learning institutions, madrasas, social media, peer influence, unemployment and education, but also focused on sub factors within these factors. For example, if the family was an important factor to be considered in the involvement of young girls in violent extremism, what aspects of the family as a unit were important or influential? is it the religiosity or the extremist beliefs of the family? Or is it the role or the occupation of the family head or is it the influence of siblings? Open-ended questions were posed which allowed respondents to further elaborate on what they felt were important factors in preventing VE with regard to young women and violent extremism.