Gender and resistance to violent extremism: Untold stories of everyday resistance to violent extremism in Kenya

  • Aroussi, Sahla (Principal Investigator)
  • Azmiya Badurdeen, Fathima (Co-Investigator)
  • Jakala, Michaelina (Co-Investigator)
  • Verhoest, Xavier (Researcher)

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    This project explores how men and women at grassroots and community level in Kenya resist violent extremism in their everyday lives. The research will be carried out in Nairobi and Mombasa, in areas that were affected by violent extremist activities and the counterterrorism Operation Usalama Watch in 2014. This project uses a gender lens and intersectionality to understand the spectrum of responses to violent extremism of which resistance is one. This research is interdisciplinary and innovative drawing on the fields of politics, peace studies, gender studies, international relations, terrorism studies and arts and humanities. This research is a collaboration between academics, civil society organisations and artists to examine and illustrate, using co-creative and arts based methods, how violent extremism is resisted at a local community level.

    Layman's description

    Within the literature, narratives about violent extremism tend to focus on victimisation, radicalisation and violence. Yet, within communities, men and women alike are engaged in a process of everyday resistance to violent extremism. For every person who has fallen victim to radicalisation and recruitment, there are thousands more who resist such tendencies and forces. Bennoune in her book Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here argued that in stories about Muslim fundamentalism “sensible, self-critical voices concerned with the responsibility of Muslims were rarely transmitted” (2013: 6) [4]. Narratives of resistance to violent extremism are typically overlooked except when these lead to tragedies. In the case of Malala Yusafzai, had she not been shot as a child, most probably no one would have heard about her struggle. As such, this project will give voice to silenced narratives on how communities resist in their everyday struggle against violent extremism and what they do using a gender perspective.

    Within the literature and policy circles on violent extremism, the discussion of gender is based on stereotypes focused on the role of men as perpetrators of violence and on women as victims. The roles of mothers and women in the prevention of violent extremism are often emphasised, yet narratives about what men as fathers, siblings, peers, teachers and coaches do to prevent violent extremism have yet to be explored and heard.
    While there has been an increasing policy and research interest in gender and violent extremism particularly following the adoption of the Security Council Resolution 2242 on Women, Peace and Security in October 2015, a deeper understanding of the gender dynamics in violent extremism is still missing. Noting the absence of research and evidence in this area, Resolution 2242 (2015), urged Member States and relevant United Nations entities, “to conduct and gather gender-sensitive research and data collection” in the area of terrorism and violent extremism in order to develop targeted and effective evidence-based policy and programming responses. This project, by adopting a gender perspective and an intersectionality lens in understanding the dynamics of resistance to violent extremism, will contribute significantly to building evidence in this area.

    The term violent extremism is relatively new within the lexica of the UN. Prior to the 2015 UN global review of its counter-terrorism architecture, the focus used to be exclusively on terrorism. Yet, there is no agreed definition on what constitute violent extremism. The way that States security apparatus and government may define violent extremism and sources of violent extremism, could be completely different to men and women a local communities view as violent extremism. This research will explore the meaning and nuances of violent extremism at a community level and how these relate to the Kenyan national government and the international community’s understandings of violent extremism. By doing so the project will significantly contribute to research and policy in this area.

    Research aim: This project will investigate the role that men and women play at grassroots and community levels in resisting and preventing violent extremism in Kenya
    The project objectives are:
    1- To investigate the challenges of living with violent extremism in Kenya
    2- To understand how violent extremism is defined at the community level
    3- To understand the gender dynamics of violent extremism at community level in Kenya.
    4- To understand the issue of resistance to violent extremism and what this means in local context.
    5- To explore what strategies and methods are used in local communities in Kenya to resist violent extremism
    6- To understand, through an intersectionality lens, the role of gender in resistance to violent extremism in Kenya
    7- To use arts based methodology to co-create an arts and a book illustrative of the narratives of resistance from Kenya

    Effective start/end date31/01/1931/01/22


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