World-wide, violent extremist activities have escalated dramatically. And increasingly, they target women and women’s rights, according to UN Women. Terrorists conduct campaigns of sexual and gender-based violence within a community, terrorizing the inhabitants and destroying the social fabric.
As a result, women are too often seen as just victims of terrorism. But the truth is that they are crucial to the prevention of, and response to extremist violence. “Women and girls are often on the frontlines mediating peace, delivering aid, and supporting communities, yet they are simultaneously confronted with heightened risks of violence, particularly gender-based violence, online and offline,” said United States Representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Yet “Women and girls are consistently underrepresented in decision-making aimed at preventing conflict, building peace and security, and countering terrorism,” she said. “Violent extremists are increasingly and deliberately engaging in online harassment, violence, and abuse, which can precede and carry over into physical settings and can follow women into their homes and communities – to silence leaders and suppress democratic movements.”
It is therefore imperative that the unique needs and experiences of women and men be taken into consideration when charting the fight against extremism. And that means including women in counter-terrorism efforts.
“Omitting women from terrorism prevention efforts forfeits their potential contributions as mitigators of violent extremism,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. Indeed, “It is vital to understand how gender dynamics affect and are affected by counterterrorism efforts, particularly when violent extremist groups use gender-based violence as a tool for recruitment and a tactic to terrorize local communities.”
When women add their perspective and experiences to all levels of prevention and response to terrorism, the result is a more effective, more sustainable counter terrorism campaign.
“Safeguarding human rights enables women and girls’ full, equal, and meaningful participation across society and enhances the broader conditions for successful efforts to prevent terrorism and violent extremism. It is critical that we address the needs of women and girls affected by terrorism; advance gender-responsive approaches and women’s participation within security processes; and promote justice, human rights, and the rule of law,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
“The United States will continue to work with civil society, the United Nations, and Member States … to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and prevent and address gender-based violence, in a manner that respects human rights and integrates gender equality as a cross-cutting issue.”