We have often seen women taking active roles in terrorist and violent extremist groups. What crosses our minds is why and how would women be involved in such groups. Truth is, women’s recruitment into violent extremist groups became a global challenge when we saw women being used as suicide bombers. This action was highly condemned by human rights bodies and women movements globally because it had been reported that there was an increase of women abductions in Somalia and the coast of Kenya. Research has shown various recruitment methods used by terrorist groups to target women to join their group.
Cases of women disappearing while performing their daily duties have been on the rise in recent years. Some women were abducted while on their way to community boreholes when they were captured by Al Shabaab militants. The targeting of these women is a planned process to find manual labourers for the group. The security of women in rural setups is no longer guaranteed which has seen men tasked to accompany women while fetching water and firewood.
Another recruitment strategy is by kidnapping children from playing grounds then asking to trade their live with those of their mothers or sisters. This strategy has seen many parents and elder siblings join Al Shabaab to save children from persecution. Others are recruited through false job opportunities abroad and in NGOs. These women are normally educated and skilled and the jobs are tailor-made to meet their qualifications. They even attend interviews, sign contracts and get travel visas as they prepare for these opportunities.
Though some women might join extremist groups willingly, most are usually coerced to join the Al Shabaab, their recruitment in the group results in experiences of torture and mistreatment. Women at the battlefronts are those whose family members have been threatened to be killed by militants. And to save and protect their families, they choose to give their lives so as to spare those of their families.
Women and girls need protection from violent extremist groups which comes from empowerment and raising awareness about terrorism and violent extremism. Supporters of these groups need to be captured and arrested because they are a constant threat to the stability, safety and security of communities.