‘Mama’ Hidaya Abdallah lives in Kilifi County on the coast of Kenya which has been identified as an area of concern for emerging peace and security issues , including violent extremism. In 2018, the Global Terrorism Index ranked Kenya 19 out of 134 countries most affected by terrorism. Through a year-long project in partnership with Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), Mama Hidaya has gained financial independence and the community, as a whole, have developed a resilience to the push and pull factors of radicalization and recruitment into extremist groups. Such factors include lack of access to income generating skills and opportunities.
” When we heard about the education opportunities available, we thought it would be a chance to progress from our traditional ‘merry-go-round’ financing system [an informal savings and loan group].
We learnt about how to save, how to manage accounts and small businesses. From relying on selling surplus crops, we got into alternative business opportunities like furniture rental and catering. I was able to take a loan to buy two motorcycles, renting them out daily for 300 KSH [USD 3]. One wall at a time, I was able to build a new brick home for my family.
Many members of this community have been affected by violent extremism. We were always afraid. It felt like anytime, anything could happen. As a group we received psychosocial support and training on issues connected to violent extremism. We have [spread the knowledge] by visiting schools, youth groups and other women’s groups and have helped people open up about things that used to be difficult to talk about.
The security situation [in the community] has improved, the risks have reduced because of the awareness we have been creating on what constitutes danger [or how they may be recruited by extremist groups, for example]. The local government and police have supported our efforts and our relationship with them has improved.
Today, I can dream again… I want to open a salon, perhaps an M-Pesa kiosk [mobile money transfer kiosk]. Most importantly, I want peace. “
Hidaya Abdallah, 46, chairs Mere Muungano, a community-based organization in the coastal region of Kenya, which received support as part of a UN Women programme funded by the Government of Japan on enhancing women’s active participation in prevention of violent extremism in Kenya. The programme was implemented in four counties, including in Kilifi, where Abdallah lives, and worked with six civil society organizations to build women’s resilience, leadership and engagement in preventing violent extremism.