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How to build peace in Nigeria: unite Christian & Muslim women

Christian and Muslim women in Nigeria — who both suffered from violence perpetrated by the “other” community — realized that forging an alliance was the only way to heal past wounds and embark on a path towards peace.  By working in poor, volatile neighborhoods that are breeding grounds for foot soldiers and other young people prone to violence, these women take the time to engage with youth and present them with alternates to violence. The women have found that “this is how the cycle of violence is disrupted — one soul at a time.”  Read full article.

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Female extremists: empowered, but not feminists

Female extremists leave us in a quandary. They have a certain degree of agency in groups like IS  where they are employed  in all-female security brigades and are encouraged in their social media activities highlighting the pre-eminence of IS. However, while actively engaged, their activities are in support of a clearly misogynistic organization that aspires to deny women most  if not all of their rights. New America recently held an event that addressed this and other related issues in an attempt to understand women who join extremist organizations. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American activist and journalist, posed a critical question,“What makes these women become the foot soldiers of patriarchy?” Read more to see answers from Eltahawy and other participants.

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Morocco’s Dilemma: Rights and Reform or Closure and Conservatism?

ICAN Peacework has produced yet another excellent report as part of its “What the Women Say” initiative. Morocco continues to evolve politically and socially in a region filled with challenges. The country’s conservatives and progressives are present and vocal. The rise of social conservatism threatens past gains in the area of equal rights and could limit reforms necessary to seriously address gender based violence and other pressing social issues.  This report provides a succinct history of Morocco’s social and rights gains as well as a substantive discussion of the politics surrounding these issues today. Recommendations to ensure that these gains remain in place and that more progress is made underscore the need for civil society actors like women’s rights groups and youth democracy activiststo to work together strategically. Read full report. 

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Women in Combat Arms: Brass Tacks on Physicality

War on the Rocks takes on the contentious issue of women’s physical capability in terms of meeting the combat arms standard. Author Katey van Dam takes a trip down memory lane reminding us of a Navy Top Gun Instructor who, when addressing a 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, stated, “They’re [women are] not flying combat mission F-18s, you know, and to put them in the same role is just ludicrous.” Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and women fly F-18 combat missions today. The instructor’s comment is the equivalent of today’s nay-sayers who get spun up even thinking about providing opportunities for women to compete for slots in combat arms, no less join combat arms. While van Dam makes valid points worth considering, those responding to her article make it clear that hers (and others of like mind) are undertaking a Sisyphean task. Kudos for pushing that boulder!  Read more.

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A National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security for Afghanistan

Civil society leader, Mahbouba Seraj, has managed to garner the public support necessary for Afghanistan to draft a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security.  Considering the significant resistance emanating from traditional leaders who, by and large, do not believe that women should be included in peace building efforts or the security sector, this is no small feat. Learn how Seraj and other civili society activists worked with religious leaders, tweaked language, and addressed communities’ concerns to change minds and what the NAP means for the country.

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Women in Combat Arms: Just Good Business

Read War on the Rocks’ excellent (and first) article in a short series on the debate over women serving in combat arms in the U.S. military. Hear from women who have been there, done that. Learn some history about American female combatants (okay, in the Civil War they had to pretend to be men in order to fight in the army, but they did it). And enjoy some logical arguments rather than the emotional and vitriolic palaver that seems to be a staple of the American media diet when it comes to women in combat arms.  Read more.

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Syrian youth work with refugee children to combat violent extremism

A group of Syrian twenty-somethings has come together with the goal of transforming the hopes and values of refugee children. Applying methods used in other post-conflict societies, this group is passing on its values of non-violence, pluralism and hope to Syrian children. In doing so, they not only combat the values of groups like IS and a regime that doesn’t represent them, but prepare Syria’s next generation. Read more.

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Gender Equality and Implementing UNSCR 1325 in Military Operations

On February 25, 2015 George Washington University’s Global Gender Program convened a panel discussion on gender equality in military operations. “What Works? Promoting Gender Equality and the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Military Operations.” Panelists discussed their experiences integrating women, peace and security considerations into military operations in a variety of organizations including the Irish Defense Forces, the US Army, and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Commentators representing Women in International Security (WIIS) and Georgetown University also contributed to the discussion. Speakers emphasized the importance of recognizing entry points within an institution to produce real and sustainable change. They also agreed that the greatest challenge is resistance to change that is evident in all organizations. Read more.

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A Gendered Approach to Countering Violent Extremism

This Brookings report reflects a growing awareness concerning the” importance of harnessing female actors as positive, operational agents of change” in the fight against violent extremism. Author Couture focuses her study on women’s role in CVE in Bangladesh and Morocco, two countries that have directly and indirectly places an emphasis on women’s empowerment in order to fight terrorism and the factors that drive recruitment and radicalization to violence. Both appear to have had success in reducing support for violent extremism through this approach.  Courate examines whether the assumption that “an increase in women [sic] empowerment and gender equality has a positive effect on countering extremism, as it does similarly in peace building” is valid. The correlation between women’s empowerment and CVE deserves more attention and we hope that Couture’s study is just the beginning.  Read full report.

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