Do Mothers Know Best? How Assumptions Harm CVE

Published by Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Countering Violent Extremism

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2242 advocates deliberate outreach to women in counter-terrorism projects. The UN secretary general’s Plan of Action outlines how preventing violent extremism should protect and empower both women and women-led organisations. As a result, since the resolution was adopted in 2015, initiatives have been implemented around the world that seek to empower women, particularly mothers, to take a more active role in the community, family and economy, and to create spaces for raising awareness about violent extremism. Such initiatives are based on assumptions about the ability of women to influence young people. The rationale is that women are inherently more peaceful than men and that, if empowered to do so, they can stop radicalisation to violence. Many schemes have focused on mothers. The assumption is that mothers are better able to detect signs of a move to extremism in their children. Critics of this approach point to the lack of publicly available evidence that supports it. There is (so far) no definitive evidence that mothers can spot and address increased radicalisation to violence in their children. This paper explores the thinking and assumptions behind this myth about women, specifically mothers, in countering violent extremism (CVE) programming.