To offer an illustrative example of practical efforts to engage women in countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts, the Global Center, in partnership with Women In International Security (WIIS), hosted a lunchtime event with Dr. Edit Schlaffer, Founder and Executive Director of Women Without Borders (WWB) and Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), a global campaign launched by WWB in 2008. Dr. Schalffer, who is also a social scientist, author, and activist, presented some of SAVE’s work and offered a brief screening of two videos produced by SAVE. The first film video “Your Mother,” captured poignant stories of mothers whose children were involved in acts of terrorism and violent extremism. The second film featured SAVE’s “Mother Schools” project, which works closely with families, especially mothers, to empower them as parents and equip them with the knowledge and tools to identify early signs of grievances, anger, and behaviors that may lead to violent radicalization. Beyond CVE, these programs also foster greater community cohesion, support women’s leadership efforts, and promote organic responses to sources of insecurity.
The event brought together a diverse group with representatives from UN missions, UN agencies, such as the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), consulates, local and international NGOs, such Amnesty International and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as academic institutions. A number of key issues were raised during the interactive discussions, including gender sensitization training for law enforcement officials and their role in ensuring a safe space for implementing relevant projects like Mother Schools. The need for monitoring and evaluation to assess impact and ensure long-term sustainability of CVE programs was raised a number of times, but it was noted that formal evaluations may sometimes be challenging in high-risk areas and that oftentimes a simple change in attitude may be seen as an indicator of success. It was also emphasized that the main objective of some CVE programs, especially those involving women and youth, is to build trust with communities, which is a fundamental prerequisite to achieving longer-term CVE impact.