Kathleen Kuehnast

Director, Gender Policy and Strategy

Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast is the director of Gender Policy and Strategy at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where she has worked since 2008. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As a socio-cultural anthropologist, Kuehnast has focused on the different gendered impacts of violence and conflict on both men and women. In addition, her efforts have focused on the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, including the critical role women should play in all aspects of peacebuilding. In this capacity, Kuehnast co-edited the volume, “Women and War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century” (2011). She has been a part of the international vanguard of introducing the concept of engaging men in conflict countries in the championing of women’s rights. Prior to USIP, Kuehnast worked 15 years in the international development field, primarily with the World Bank, where her role as a senior social scientist included research and project management on the thematic streams of women and poverty, social capital and community driven development in fragile and post-conflict societies. Kuehnast’s regional expertise is Central Asia, where she lived for several years in the post-Soviet country of Kyrgyzstan completing her doctoral dissertation research, which resulted in a number of publications on the impact of post-Soviet transition on Muslim women, including the co-edited volume, “Post-Soviet Women Encountering Transition: Nation Building, Economic Survival, and Civic Activism” (2004). Dr. Kuehnast is a recipient of the post-doctorate Mellon Foreign Fellowship at the Library of Congress, and also a former post-doctorate Kennan Institute Fellow at the Wilson Center. Kuehnast is the 2015 recipient of the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. Kuehnast holds a doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology from the University of Minnesota.

Expert In the News

Articles & Analysis from this Expert

May 12, 2016

In the violent conflict tearing across the Middle East and North Africa, fully half of the pieces needed to complete the security puzzle may be missing almost entirely: women. As extremist groups and military forces parry with the weapons of war and politics, the pivotal role that women could play in restoring peace and security has largely been cast aside, as old-school thinking perpetuates the idea that gender equality is a problem for another day, according to experts and a new study just published by USIP.

March 1, 2016
Kathleen Kuehnast and Danielle Robertson
July 27, 2015
Kathleen Kuehnast
December 10, 2014
Paul Kirby and Kathleen Kuehnast


May 25, 2015
The Women Preventing Violent Extremism Thought for Action Kit is intended to engage discussions on key issues related to the role of women and preventing violent extremism (PVE). This document is for policy makers, practitioners and academics who are interested in understanding “why gender matters” in preventing violent extremism. We think of it as a thought kit more than a tool kit, that is— a collection of experts’ essays and practical exercises designed to help guide local activists and practitioners to engage in reflection and dialogue on violent extremism. In addition, we hope to bring greater awareness to the diverse set of experiences that women and women’s organizations are dealing with violent extremist ideologies.
March 23, 2015
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military operations in Eastern Ukraine have overturned the post–Cold War norms that had provided stability and development for the former Soviet countries bordering Russia. As neighboring countries assess their own security situation based on Russia’s aggressive practices in Ukraine and the West’s response, they are actively testing the new contours of Russian and Western engagement, regional alliances and relationships, and regional conflict dynamics.
October 23, 2014
Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia that has seen significant political transition since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, having twice—in 2005 and 2010—overthrown autocrats in violent uprisings. At the same time, its new democratic institutions, elected leaders, and multiparty parliament make it a test case for political liberalization. If its political system fails or the country falls apart, so will the first democratic experiment in Central Asia. Concerns within Kyrgyzstan are that underlying socioeconomic conditions and a lack of public services—combined with other factors, such as drug trafficking, political manipulation, regional instability, and imported religious ideologies—create an environment in which violent extremism can flourish. This report offers perspectives on the national and regional dynamics of violent extremism and what might be done to prevent it in Kyrgyzstan.
November 16, 2012
Afghan and Iraqi women leaders met earlier this year to discuss how women in North African transition countries can play a role in reshaping their societies. Based on their own experiences with transition, these leaders offered advice on what to do and what pitfalls to avoid.

External Publications

  • 2015 “Gender, Security and Global Governance,” in Crocker, C., F. Hampson, and P. Aall, eds., Security and Global Governance, Co-author with C. de Jonge Oudraat, Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.
  • 2014 “What do We Know About Wartime Rape?” Foreign Policy. With P. Kirby. December 10, 2014.
  • 2014 “Preventing Violent Extremism in Kyrgyzstan,” with J. Zenn. U.S. Institute of Peace Press. November 2014.
  • 2013 “Fostering Synergies for Advancing Women’s Rights in Post-Conflict Islamic States: A Focus on Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya.” Co-authored with H. Khan, M. Omar, And S. Hayward. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute.
  • 2012 “No Will, No Way: Women, Peace, and Security in Peacekeeping Operations.” Vol. 3, Issue 1, Peace & Stability Operations Journal Online. PKSOI.ARMY.mil
  • 2012 “Peacebuilding Efforts of Women from Afghanistan and Iraq: Lessons in Transition.” Special Report by Kuehnast, K. , M. Omar, S. Steiner, and H. Sultan. U.S. Institute of Peace Press. November 2012.
  • 2012 “Lessons from Women's Programs in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Special Report by Kuehnast, K. , M. Omar, S. Steiner, and H. Sultan. U.S. Institute of Peace Press. March 2012.
  • 2011 Women and War, Power and Protection in the 21st Century. Co-editor, Kuehnast, K., C. de Jonge Oudraat, and H. Hernes. Washington D.C.: USIP Press.