In the Horn of Africa, both al-Shabaab and a nascent presence of ISIS—as well as remnants of other extremist groups—remain in Somalia, with recruiters and facilitation networks extending beyond national borders and across the region. And in the Sahel, countless communities also suffer terrorist and extremist violence perpetrated by actors ranging from ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates to locally driven movements.

After nearly two decades of ongoing efforts to defeat terrorism, the international community has learned that comprehensive strategies to tackle violent extremism must engage women as positive actors when it comes to preventing and countering radicalization. Today, as threats of violent extremism endure in both the Horn and Sahel, local women’s organizations are working to limit extremist groups’ local impact and inform national policymaking. However, gaps exists when it comes to information-sharing and trust among grassroots groups, security actors, and policymakers; creating the need for improved communication and collaboration.

USIP’S Work

USIP’s Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) program empowers women-led organizations to build local capacity and fosters collaboration between community-level activists and national-level policymakers. Through this work, USIP aims to build a regional platform for women across Africa who are working to prevent and counter the threat of violent extremism in their communities.

Beginning in 2012 as a pilot project, the WPVE program initially organized a series of trainings and dialogues in Kenya and Nigeria that brought together women civil society leaders and members of the security sector in order to elevate women’s perspectives in preventing violent extremism. Now, through the support of the State Department, as a component of the U.S. Government Strategy to Support Women and Girls at Risk from Violent Extremism, USIP is implementing the WPVE program across the Horn of Africa and is expanding into the Sahel.

The WPVE program accounts for the diverse range of roles—as enablers, beneficiaries, preventers, peacekeepers, supporters, victims, and others—that women play in the prevention of and response to violent extremism. The approach is based on the following principles:

Building Capacity at the Local Level

Through workshops, dialogues, and trainings, the WPVE program is uniquely designed to ensure that capacity-building efforts build trust at the local level through inclusive processes while elevating women as change agents that contribute to more sustainable approaches for mitigating violent extremism. Via connections made within their communities, women are able to create a safe space for discussing shared issues, and explore areas of collaboration and approaches to their programming.

Fostering Trust with Security Actors

Dialogues increase understanding, trust, collaboration, and empathy between women and local and national level security actors. A series of facilitated dialogues between women, community members, and security actors at both local and national levels allow for new avenues of coordination that help identify shared threats and strengthen resilience.

Connecting Women with Policymakers

WPVE connects women with local and national level policymakers to advise and influence policies that prevent and counter violent extremism, and supports the sharing of good practices in P/CVE through women-led network-building. Women and women’s organizations can use these networks to act as strategic relays between communities and national-level decision makers for preventive efforts.


Sisters Without Borders logo

Sisters Without Borders, a network of Kenyan women’s groups, was established in 2015 as a result of the WPVE program. Sisters amplifies the voices of women and promotes effective engagement on peace and security issues at local, national, and regional levels. Sisters is now a critical partner of the Kenyan government and has helped prevent terrorist attacks, advised policymakers, and reviewed key policy documents such as counterterrorism strategies.

Related Publications

Guns, Camps and Deradicalization: Violent Extremists in Conflict Zones

Guns, Camps and Deradicalization: Violent Extremists in Conflict Zones

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

By: Andrew Glazzard

Violent extremists make civil conflicts more complex and less manageable. Whether in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia, one of the many problems presented by conflicts involving violent extremists is how to deal with these combatants and associates when they surrender or are captured. There have been many attempts to disengage, deradicalize, rehabilitate and reintegrate violent extremists around the world, but most research focuses on stable settings such as Western Europe and North America. What, then, do we know about how to do this in the middle of conflict?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

2020 Trends in Terrorism: From ISIS Fragmentation to Lone-Actor Attacks

2020 Trends in Terrorism: From ISIS Fragmentation to Lone-Actor Attacks

Friday, January 8, 2021

By: Alastair Reed; Kateira Aryaeinejad

In the past five years, terrorist attacks have declined notably around the globe. While this is certainly good news—particularly in the 20th year of the so-called global war on terror—terrorism remains a pervasive threat. Despite declines in its prevalence, the scale of the challenge posed by terrorism and the violent ideologies that underpin it is still immense and the mechanisms by which to address it remain complex and in need of further coordination on a global scale. What trends did we see in 2020? And how can those trends inform policy to counter violent extremism?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

Nigeria's Security Failures: The Link Between EndSARS and Boko Haram

Nigeria's Security Failures: The Link Between EndSARS and Boko Haram

Thursday, December 17, 2020

By: Aly Verjee; Chris Kwaja

At first glance, the October state-led killings of protesters in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, seem to have little in common with the November Boko Haram massacre of at least 43 farmers in Nigeria’s northeast, or the December 11 abduction of hundreds of school students in Katsina State. With vastly different circumstances, motivations, and perpetrators—and separated by hundreds of miles—all three episodes could easily be recorded as just further tragic installments in Nigeria’s long history of violence. However, these incidents underscore the wider failure of the state to provide security for its citizens, only deepening the trust deficit felt by Nigerians.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Fragility & Resilience

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Related Projects

Women Preventing Extremist Violence (WPEV)

Women Preventing Extremist Violence (WPEV)

Past Project

The Women Preventing Extremist Violence (WPEV) is a pilot project of the USIP’s Gender and Peacebuilding team designed to increase women’s agency, influence and engagement in strengthening community level resilience to violent extremism. Through a training program and facilitated dialogues, USIP’s staff works with in-country partners to bring together representatives of women civil society and the security sector in an exploration of the local drivers of violent extremism, and potential strat...

Violent Extremism; Gender; Nonviolent Action

Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) in the Horn and Sahel

Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) in the Horn and Sahel

USIP’s Women Preventing Violent Extremism (WPVE) program aims to shape national policies and community approaches to countering violent extremism in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. USIP does this by empowering women-led organizations and building local capacity that fosters collaboration between community-level activists and national-level policymakers.

Gender; Violent Extremism

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