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One UN on Gender in Kenya

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Panelists for session on Enhancing Women Participation in CVE and the Role of Women Victims of Terror in CVE: New Efforts, Successes and Challenges (from left to right Margaret Muthama, Prof. Hassan Mwakimako, Dr. Sarah Kinyanjui, Ms. Violet Muthiga, Dr. Fridah Simba and Dr. Steve Ouma)


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The UN Women Kenya Country Office supported HURIA (Human Rights Agenda), a key implementing partner in the coastal region, to host the 2nd Annual Colloquium on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism titled “Beyond Bold, Inclusive Conversations: Building Shared Solutions for Preventing Violent Extremism” on 14th -15th February 2018.

The 2nd Annual Colloquium extended its focus from Kwale County to include Mombasa and Kilifi counties, and brought together over 200 peace and security practitioners, researchers, academicians, politicians and other stakeholders including teachers and religious leaders to dialogue on emerging trends and patterns of violent extremism in the Coastal region, and to take stock of the multiple interventions that have been implemented in the region with a focus on identifying best practices and analyzing the impact of those interventions to date. The colloquium also sought to analyze the economic cost of PCVE efforts, the impact of terrorism on the economy and politics in the coast, and to understand the response to the threat of violent extremism and terror from key actors such as the judiciary, parliamentarians, the private sector, learning institutions, prisons and correctional facilities.

The colloquium served as a platform for discussions on key issues such as the judicial response to violent extremism and radicalization in the coastal region, the role of legislators in CVE efforts, disengagement and rehabilitation in communities and prisons, the role of education in CVE, and importantly the role of women in CVE efforts. This platform brought together various stakeholders including Amb. Martin Kimani (Director of the National Counter Terrorism Centre and Special Envoy on CVE), His Excellency Hassan Ali Joho (the Governor of Mombasa County), Evans Achoki (the County Commissioner of Mombasa) and other partners such as BRICS, Search for Common Ground, NIWETU, and ACT.

In her opening remarks, Zebib Kavuma (Country Director, UN Women) highlighted the unique and disproportionate impact that violent extremism has on the rights of women and girls. In recognition of the attack on the rights of women and girls by violent extremists the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSCR 2242 which calls for all nations to deepen their understanding of the gendered dynamics of violent extremism, and to enhance the leadership and participation of women in all efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. Under the framework of the Kenya National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, which calls for women’s leadership and participation in peace processes, UN Women Kenya has been providing support to key stakeholders to engender efforts to counter violent extremism in the country. Key results to date include an analysis of the National CVE strategy in collaboration with NCTC to ensure that nation-wide efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism are gender responsive. This has led to the development of County Action Plans to Prevent Violent Extremism by the County Governments of Mombasa and Kwale that include pillars that respond to the specific needs of women and girls. Ms. Kavuma called on other Counties to adopt this as a best practice in the development of county action plans to prevent violent extremism.


The discussions provided insights on key processes in efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism including:

  1. How to balance the need to rehabilitate and reintegrate defectors of violent extremist groups against the need for justice for victims and survivors of violent extremism;
  2. The need to develop research that analyses rather than describes the process of exposure to extremist ideology to the perpetration of a violent extremist act;
  3. The need to develop and direct messages to counter violent extremism to distinct audiences as the current approach is too general in scope;
  4. The need to reconsider the role that socio-economic deprivation and marginalization plays in radicalisation given that the link between the two has been challenged in recent academic studies, and the need to deepen understanding of the role of psycho-social factors such as identity issues and the emergence of charismatic leaders as key push and pull factors;
  5. The need to understand the gendered dynamics of radicalisation, recruitment into a violent extremist group, engagement with violent extremism, disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration into communities;
  6. The need for rehabilitation and reintegration strategies to be based on an understanding of what leads individuals to engage with violent extremism in the first place, and to fully understand the various different issues that returnees/defectors face as they struggle to reintegrate into society;
  7. The need to focus on inclusion in addition to building attitudes of tolerance, especially in efforts to integrate CVE in schools.

The UN Women KCO has been providing support to the Kenyan Government and other non-state actors to strengthen women’s engagement in efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in Kenya. The UN Women KCO strategy seeks to influence the policy environment on CVE, strengthen the capacity of national institutions to integrate gender in CVE efforts, increase women’s meaningful participation in CVE efforts, and build and expand the evidence and knowledge base on the effectiveness and positive impact of integrating gender in PCVE.

As such UN Women Kenya’s work on CVE has involved working closely with the National Counter Terrorism Centre to integrate gender in CVE at all levels, establishing women civil society networks on preventing and countering violent extremism in counties prone to VE, enhancing the capacity of women to identify early signs of radicalization and building women’s confidence to tap into their potential as peace makers and bridge builders in a male dominated field, building the capacity of frontline actors such as prison officers, parents and teachers on early warning, strategy development and dialogue, creating linkages to community peace structures, increasing access to livelihoods and other socio-economic opportunities, and working with media institutions to build the capacity of media professionals and women to counter violent extremist narratives in their reporting.2

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