Around the world, women are bravely serving on the frontlines to stem the tide of violent extremism – as peacebuilders, community leaders, human rights defenders, and advocates. S/GWI aims to address the adverse impacts of violent extremism, including through policy and programming that support and partner with women and girls to counter, prevent, and recover from violent extremism. While there is no narrative for how women interact with violent extremism around the world, we know that our efforts are more effective and sustainable when we empower women and girls to be leaders in preventing and responding to violent extremism, recognizing that they can be perpetrators, targets, or survivors.
The 2018 U.S. Strategy to Support Women and Girls at Risk from Violent Extremism and Conflict aims to limit the impact of violent extremism and conflict, including the risks to women and girls, by supporting women and girls as agents for in countering terrorist ideology to prevent radicalization in their families, communities, countries, and online. It recognizes the importance of women’s leadership and safety in rebuilding and recovering following violent extremism and conflict, such as by providing services for survivors of violent extremism or conflict-related gender-based violence. This strategy aligns with the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), which calls for the integration of WPS in other national strategic guidance on peace and security.
S/GWI works to ensure U.S. CVE policies and initiatives recognize that women have complex and varied roles in society and in relation to violent extremism. By supporting women as prevention actors, we can make strides towards addressing the conditions that lead to terrorism and conflict in the first place. Our efforts consider the causes of women and girls’ radicalization to violence, prioritize their safety and access to education, and respect their human rights. Women’s perspectives and participation are necessary for inclusive and comprehensive approaches to address the threat violent extremism poses to our national security and prosperity.
Preventing and responding to violence against women globally is a human rights imperative. It must be addressed as an unacceptable threat to women and girl’s safety and human rights, as well as a barrier to their prosperity and leadership. Tackling violence against women is a cross-cutting priority that is critical to achieving our broader foreign policy objectives.
More than one in three women around the world will be affected by gender-based violence during her lifetime, whether at home, in her community, or in conflict. From rape to intimate partner violence to harassment and intimidation of women leaders and activists, violence against women remain is pervasive, and no country has ended it.
Economic empowerment for women has the potential to increase gender-based violence, and we see that as women exercise their rights to participate in political processes, they often face backlash from those who use violence to suppress their voice.
There is growing recognition that the prevalence of violence against women – particularly sexual violence before, during, and after conflict poses unique challenges to building and sustaining peace. That is why enhancing women and girls’ protection, leadership, and equal access to assistance resources is one of the objectives of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security.
Preventing conflict-related sexual violence is a matter of international peace and security because it often exacerbates and prolongs conflict, especially when used as a deliberate tactic of war, it inflicts trauma and injustice on survivors as well as their families and communities. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators are not held accountable for their crimes, and many survivors never receive the necessary recovery assistance and support.
Harmful practices including female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) and early, child, and forced marriage (ECFM) undermine the human rights of women and girls by damaging their health and security, reducing girls’ access to education, isolating them socially, and limiting women’s leadership and economic opportunities. These harmful practices are often exacerbated by conflict or crisis. Ending these practices requires a survivor-led response and leadership from policymakers, health practitioners, communities, faith-based leaders, and civil society.
The meaningful participation of women in political, economic, and public life is critical to building and sustaining representative societies. Yet, around the world, women continue to be underrepresented or face barriers to safely and freely participate in the fabric of their societies, and especially in decision-making roles.
Increasing opportunities for women and girls’ leadership across sectors leads to building stronger and more prosperous societies. We also recognize that countries are more stable and secure when women are engaged in decision-making that affects their lives.
Women’s expertise, experiences and knowledge must be included in decision-making bodies at all levels, including local and national governments, security sectors and international platforms. Their inclusion impacts the types of policy issues that are debated and decided in parliaments, local councils, and government ministries, often resulting in more inclusive and sustainable solutions for their communities.
Advancing efforts that ensure laws, regulations and policies reflect the reality of women’s everyday lives is essential. Women often raise issues that are overlooked, reach out to marginalized constituencies, and have unique knowledge that stems from their societal roles and responsibilities.
We recognize that women must lead in the decision-making processes that disproportionately affect them, in addition to contributing their unique talents and perspectives to challenges that affect their broader communities. We work to lower the barriers to women’s leadership and foster an enabling environment for their success.
Afghan Women Leadership Initiative
The Afghan Women Leadership Initiative (AWLI) is a United States government program aimed at empowering Afghan women and girls to fully participate in their communities. The initiative promotes women in the economy, increases young women’s access to education, invests in adolescent girls to delay marriage, trains women survivors of gender-based violence, and helps women’s shelters become financially sustainable.
AWLI supports women’s protection centers that provide safe spaces for women escaping dangerous or violent situations. The initiative offers vocational training that ranges from baking and restaurant management to financial literacy and mentorship. The trainings prepares women for the workforce while also generating income for the centers.
Changing business environments takes time. That is why AWLI offers Afghan women courses on how to market their goods and services and empowers them to be a part of the economy. The initiative also works towards long-term, national-level change through projects that give businesswomen a platform to raise their concerns to policymakers in Afghanistan with the complimentary goal of creating additional pathways for women’s political leadership..
AWLI has programs that address early and forced marriage, including a campaign that highlights the negative health, economic, and social consequences of this practice for girls, their families and communities. The initiative offers life-skills training to young girls to help them build leadership skills and know their rights.
Alliance for Artisan Enterprise
The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise is a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the Aspen Institute. It brings together artisan businesses, artisan support organizations, corporations, foundations, government and multilateral agencies, and individuals working to support the full potential of artisan enterprise around the world. The Alliance leverages the collective strength of its members to break down barriers commonly faced in the artisan sector.
Recently, the Alliance launched the Artisan Innovation Workshop, a tool that brings together stakeholders to address barriers artisans face in the process to source, create and bring products to market. By bringing together stakeholders from across the value chain, this model creates the kind of collaboration and creativity that we need to find tangible and sustainable solutions for local artisan businesses.
The Alliance will also drive change on a broader level. Since most artisan activity takes place in the informal economy, data on the nature and productivity of this sector is limited. Alliance workshops will help us to collect data, identify gaps and trends, and develop an informed response to address the critical needs of those working in the field.
Asian University for Women
With S/GWI support, the Asian University for Women is aiming to produce the next generation of women leaders for Asia and the Middle East by providing a liberal arts, sciences, and sports education to women of great potential who would otherwise have few opportunities. Our programming provides scholarships for young female students from conflict zones across specific countries in those regions to attend AUW’s four-year undergraduate program.
Voices Against Violence Consortium: The Gender Based Violence Initiative (VAV)
The Voices Against Violence (VAV) Consortium is an S/GWI and DRL Public-Private Partnership, led in cooperation with the Avon Foundation. The VAV provides emergency assistance, including medical, livelihood, and legal services, to survivors of the worst forms of GBV. Through the Avon Foundation, the VAV provides justice trainings to provide further protection to victims. The VAV provides a new approach to combating gender-based violence, especially in areas of conflict, including engaging men and boys as partners. VAV was launched in December 2017.