As the United States and world transition from a reflexive and hard approach in counterterrorism to a more reflective and soft one for the prevention of terrorism, the search for best practices and lessons learned is more critical than ever. While programming related to countering violent extremism (CVE) continues to grapple with the adoption of official definitions, priorities, evaluation methodologies, and qualitative and quantitative metrics, there is a growing awareness of the importance of harnessing female actors as positive, operational agents of change. Women continue to be an underutilized and under-tapped resource in the fight against extremism. This research identifies best practices through lessons learned from efforts that utilize women to encouragingly affect catalysts and circumstances that drive individuals to engage in terrorism.
The empowerment of women not only makes practical sense, but also is a good investment in economics, business, and counterterrorism. In micro lending, for every $1US a woman earns, she reinvests 90 percent back into her family and/or community; men re-invest only 40 percent. When a woman has an education, she marries on average four years later, enters into non-abusive relationships, and has 2.2 children who are healthier and better educated. Extremism is most effectively countered through increased education, better critical thinking, and enhanced opportunities. These empowerment scenarios and positive outcomes become manifest in the impact a woman has within her family and community. In the words of former Secretary to the United Nations Kofi Annan, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole—women and men alike—than the one which involves women as central players.”
While originally intended to only bring awareness of the role of women in preventing terrorism, this research reveals several additional important findings. Most notably, as is the case with their impact on peace and stability, women play a critical role in the security realm, and CVE is no exception. Empowering women in culturally and country-specific ways enables them to be valuable players in the extremism paradigm.
ISIS is also keen to target Italy now because it’s one of the few major European countries it hasn’t yet struck. They’re hoping to inspire violence there so that they can say, in effect, 'we’ve already attacked your capitals in London, in Paris, and in Barcelona, and now we’ve attacked Rome. There’s nowhere we can’t reach.'
The [Trump administration's] proposals don't call for constant monitoring once someone is in the country. It seems like [Saipov, the NYC attacker] became much more radical relatively recently. So the ideas on the table don't seem particularly relevant to this attack.
This is a movement that historically has been highly divided. One thing Osama had been doing is trying to be a unifier. He was very comfortable working with people who agreed with him on one issue and disagreed with him on five. Toward the end of his life, a lot of what he was trying to do was to get groups to work together.