The United States and its OSCE partners recognize that women have a fundamental role to play in winning the fight against violent extremism. Speaking at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe workshop, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Eileen O’Connor said, because women have often been the targets of violent extremism that follows radicalization, it is important to enlist their help in bringing about peace and reconciliation.
Addressing the roots of violent extremism and stemming recruitment are important to building long term peace and stability. Women are frequently effective actors in early intervention. Women are proven agents of change in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, many mothers have been able to convince their sons fighting insurgents to come back from the battlefield, lay down their weapons, and reintegrate into the community. In both Afghanistan and Pakistan non-governmental organizations have trained mothers on how to identify when their children may be vulnerable to violent extremism.
As one half of the population, women offer important perspectives in efforts to end violence. It is critical that those perspectives are given equal weight by treating women as equal partners in addressing security issues. One way the U.S. is working to bring this about is by cooperating with civil society groups to train local, national, and multinational women’s and peace groups on public outreach and ways women can prevent and counter violent extremism in their communities.
The U.S. is encouraging more participation from women in the development and implementation of its Countering Violent Extremism program, counter-terrorism finance programs, and anti-terrorism programs.
And finally, the U.S. is encouraging the inclusion of women in counterterrorism dialogues with governments and civil society, to amplify their voices. That’s why groups of Afghan women were brought to the peace table as well as to development and assistance programs and conferences throughout the world.
The United States is committed to advancing the role of women in building peaceful societies around the world. As Deputy Assistant Secretary O’Connor said, “Women’s voices must be heard if communities are going to be able to move past violence and victimization and invest in a shared future that rejects conflict and promotes dignity.”