Radicalization is not a new term to the 58-year-old Mwanaisha Juma from Kwale County in the coastal parts of Kenya, as a resident she has borne the bruises associated with the violent extremism in the region and now has embarked on a mission to fight back.
Mwanaisha Juma (right) shares her experience with the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Amb. Anna Jardfelt (Left) in Kwale County during a field visit. Photo by UN Women/ Kennedy Okoth
Local communities in the region depend on the tourism and fishing industry for their source of livelihood with the threats from radicalization and extremism posing as a challenge to this. This has driven some to turn to extremist groups as a means of financially supporting themselves and their families. Additionally, the social impact of extremism is illustrated by deterioration in community relations
Mwanaisha Juma, a resident of Kwale County is one of the many victims of the continued violent extremism that saw her son join the militia in Somali in a region hard hit by violent extremism from the outlawed salafi-jihadism of Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
“As a woman losing a child is not easy, it is even hard when you don’t know whether he is dead or alive.” She says “I lost one to radicalization 7 years ago at the age of 24.
Violent extremism in the region is manifested through radicalization of individuals, families and communities and recruitment to Al-Shabaab, returnee extremisms who travelled to Somalia, learned to use weapons, and have returned to continue propagation, recruitment and radicalization of others.
Mwanaisha, through the Human Rights Agency (HURIA) – non-profit human rights organization – has committed to assisting the youth in the Area to counter the rise of extremism in the region which she attributes to lack of understanding and misinterpretation about Islam, and the preaching of extremist ideology to vulnerable individuals. She does this through the outreach programme under the HURIA banner that purposes to reach women in the grassroot level.
‘’Through the UN Women supported HURIA training, I am able to notice early radicalization signs and act promptly. We share this knowledge with other women in the community to ensure that each and every woman is aware and can prevent it before happening” Mwanaisha Juma.
Human Rights Agenda (HURIA) is a key partner in the Coast region currently carrying out activities to improve the capacities of women frontline actors in the criminal justice system (such as remand centres and prisons) and schools in Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa. The organization also engages various women leaders and women’s organizations working on peacebuilding and preventing and countering violent extremism in Kwale County.
“I lost one of my sons at the age of 24 and now my other son just turned 23, it brings back memories and I am not losing him too and so shouldn’t any woman. We spend most of the time with our children and by default are the first line of response to keep them from being radicalized. “
In response to the rise of violent extremism in Kwale, the Kwale County Plan for Countering Violent Extremism (KCPCVE), launched in February 2017, was developed to define the manifestation of and practical measures for countering radicalisation and violent extremism in Kwale County. This strategic plan will be implemented over the 2016/17 – 2021/22 plan period, and emphasizes the role that women can play as strategic partners and actors in countering violent extremism, and includes women as key stakeholders in the implementation of CVE strategies. The implementation of the KCPCVE is critical in ensuring the fight against violent extremism.
The government with support from development partners has put in place initiatives to counter violent extremism that include security initiatives, the amnesty programme, financial support and community outreach initiatives.
To this end, UN Women Kenya is implementing a programme called “Engaging Women in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” financed by the Government of Japan. This project is in line the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and contributes to the Kenya National Action Plan, which is core to the women, peace and security agenda, specifically, the participation, protection and promotion of women’s rights in conflict and post conflict situations.
The programme seeks to highlight women’s roles in prevention and countering efforts – as ‘policy shapers, educators, community members, activists and mothers’. The overall goal of the programme is to promote and advance women’s active participation in efforts to prevent and respond to extremist violence in Kenya, while ensuring that their human rights are protected and promoted.