Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and countering violent extremism (CVE) in Tunisia and Kenya.

  • Aroussi, Sahla (Principal Investigator)

    Project: Internally funded project

    Project Details


    £9970 Coventry University research award. Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and countering violent extremism (CVE) in Tunisia and Kenya. Preliminary study. This project involves fieldwork in Kenya, Tunisia and New York to study how the integration of the WPS with the CVE is working in policy and practice.

    Layman's description

    The adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 in October 2000, signalled the start of a whole normative framework on women, peace and security (WPS). In this framework the UN Security Council, through successive resolutions, emphasised the need for women’s participation and a gender sensitive approach to peacemaking, peacebuilding, humanitarian relief and post conflict reconstruction. Over the years, the framework on women, peace and security has achieved significant milestones in terms of raising awareness about gender issues in the area of peace and security; improving funding to women’s organisations and better visibility of women as actors in important positions in international institutions and peace missions such as a diplomats, gender experts, peacekeepers and civilian and military police. Since 2013, there has been a significant shift at the UN Security Council towards a closer link between its agenda on women, peace and security and its counterterrorism work. Resolution 2129 (2013) renewed the mandate of the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED) and committed the Security Council to: ‘increase its attention to women, peace and security issues in its agenda, on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts’. In the following year, in resolution 2178 (2014) dealing with the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, the Security Council called for the need to empower women and involve them in the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation. Within the women, peace and security framework significant attention to violent extremism came in 2015, with the adoption of resolution 2242. This resolution calls on member States and the United Nations to work towards a greater integration of their agendas on WPS, counterterrorism (CT) and countering violent extremism (CVE). The resolution also requires States and the UN system to adopt gender sensitive approaches to CT and CVE and consult with women’s organisations and ensure the participation of women in leadership positions in bodies mandated with countering terrorism and violent extremism.

    The closer integration between the WPS framework and that of CT and CVE potentially could have many benefits. These may include better understanding of the role of gender in supporting and resisting violent ideologies; involvement of women in decision making in the area of CVE; better support and funding for women’s organisations involved in CVE work; gender sensitive preventive measures; better protection for women from violence. In many western countries, national action plans on women, peace and security have been primarily outward looking, focused on policies abroad rather than at home (Aroussi 2017; Pratt 2013). Linking the WPS framework with CVE has the potential of bridging this gap and bringing more attention to the local and national context in Western countries.
    However, the Security Council’s recent attention to “gender” in terrorism and violent extremism does carry potential challenges and risks. Scholars such as Ni Aolain (2016) have already pointed out that in linking up the women, peace and security agenda with that of violent extremism and terrorism, there is a danger of instrumentalizing the WPS agenda and reducing women to victims, and using them as access points to sons and husbands thought to be involved in violent extremism with negative consequences for women and girls living in conflict.

    This project was funded by Coventry University Pump-Prime Funding Scheme to study how the integration of the two agendas of WPS and that of countering violent extremism is working in policy and practice. The research examined the challenges, implications and opportunities of the integration of these two frameworks looking at the international and national policy level, and civil society and local communities levels. To do this, I conducted research in Tunisia, Kenya and at the UN in New York. The choice of Tunisia and Kenya was based on a number of reasons including ease of access, the recent rise in violent extremists related incidences. The fact that Tunisia was a Muslim majority country and Kenya was a Muslim minority country made the comparison richer.

    Key findings

    Recommendations from the study:

    • Both in Tunisia and in Kenya, the lack of agreed definition on what constitutes violent extremism and terrorism and what can be considered as prevention and countering of violent extremism has created real ambiguity and confusion on the ground. Hence, it is important that countries and actors working on the implementation of the women, peace and security framework are clear on the terminology, definition and the scope of their intervention in third countries. Such clarity is also needed for local actors on the ground.
    • Defining violent extremism should be sensitive to what the local population in each context view as violent extremism and broad enough to capture the different forms of violence within society beyond the narrow focus on Islamic extremism.
    • Women’s participation in decision making bodies responsible for preventing and countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism must be improved.
    • A better understanding of women’s actual roles within violent extremist groups beyond stereotypical frames is needed.
    • A deeper understanding of gender in violent extremism beyond the ‘add women and stir’ approach to the understanding the role of gender in the production and reproduction of violence by extremist groups is required.
    • Projects funded through development aid should primarily respond to the local population needs on the ground.
    • The integration of the WPS with the CVE agenda should not result in redirection or reduction of funding to the WPS agenda or other areas.
    • Donor governments should be aware of the risk and negative consequences of politicising development projects.
    • Labelling of development and gender projects as CVE related should be discouraged to avoid the stigmatisation of communities.
    • Donor countries should also be aware of the potential harm to local communities and local actors of working on violent extremism projects in countries where a human rights based approach to counter terrorism cannot be guaranteed.

    Effective start/end date1/09/1731/07/19


    • violent extremism
    • women, peace and security
    • gender
    • WPS
    • CVE


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