Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


CCPCJ Side-Event - Addressing Gender in Preventing Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Africa

  19 May 2021


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you today to discuss how we can better use a key resource to prevent terrorism and violent extremism in Africa – namely, the roles and voices of women.

Africa is deeply affected by the threat of terrorism and violent extremism.

Boko Haram, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the Islamic State Central African Province as well as Al-Shabaab are some of the groups that utilize sexual and gender-based violence as a tactic of terror and recruitment.

Women and girls perform support roles for these groups and sometimes operate as suicide bombers. They are often, but not always, coerced to do so. 

In order to confront terrorism, empower women, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa, we must modernize our responses to meet realities.

This year, the UN Office on Drugs on Drugs and Crime launched the Strategic Vision for Africa 2030. The fight against terrorism and organized crime is one of its thematic pillars, and the empowerment and inclusion of women is among its key enablers.

It is time for us to stop thinking in stereotypes and start understanding how women are involved with and affected by terrorism, as perpetrators, as victims, and as vital actors in effective responses.

       علينا أن ندرك أن الجماعات الإرهابية تعتمد بشكل متزايد على النساء في ارتكاب جرائمها، فعلى سبيل المثال تشير عِدة دراسات إلى أن النساء يمثلن 13 بالمائة من المقاتلين الإرهابيين الأجانب التابعين لتنظيم داعش الإرهابي.

       علينا أيضاً حماية ضحايا الإرهاب من النساء ومراعاة احتياجاتهن الخاصة، فالنساء والفتيات يتعرضن لانتهاكات ومعاناة فريدة على يد الجماعات الإرهابية، بما في ذلك وقوعهن ضحايا للعنف والاستغلال الجنسي والاتجار بالبشر من قبل الإرهابيين.

        كما وعلينا أن نُمكِن النساء في المجالات ذات الصلة بمكافحة الإرهاب، والاستفادة من خبراتهن ومُساهماتِهن في مواجهة الإرهاب، فتوظيف النساء كقوة مؤسسية واجتماعية ضد الإرهاب من شأنه تعزيز الأمن للجميع ورفع مستوى الوقاية من الإرهاب والتطرف.

       ويتطلب ذلك زيادة تمثيل المرأة ووجودها في مؤسسات العدالة الجنائية وإنفاذ القانون، وغيرها من المؤسسات والجهات المعنية بمكافحة الإرهاب في مختلف الدول.

       كما يستلزم أيضاً إتاحة الفرصة للمرأة للعب دورها على المستوى المجتمعي للتصدي للتطرف، فالنساء يمثلن خط الدفاع الأول ضد تفشي الفكر المتطرف في المجتمعات، وهو الفكر الذي يحط من مكانة المرأة وينتهك حقوقها بشكل خاص.

Mandated by the General Assembly and the Security Council and equipped with the fresh approach afforded by our Strategic Vision for Africa, UNODC is committed to assisting Member States in Africa to confront the gender dimensions of terrorism.

We are working with our partners in the continent to protect women from terrorism through mechanisms informed by the perspectives and needs of women, and to empower them as criminal justice leaders and agents of change against terrorism and violent extremism.

We have trained over 700 criminal justice and counter-terrorism policy officials in Africa on addressing gender in criminal justice responses to terrorism and violent extremism.

We are working closely with several African Union entities to help improve their capacity-building approaches, while also benefiting from their regional insight to tailor our own training.  

In Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria we cooperated with the Lake Chad Basin Commission to develop gender-sensitive approaches to interviewing and prosecution, as well as to rehabilitating and reintegrating persons associated with terrorist groups.

In Nigeria, we trained hundreds of women judges across the country on gender dimensions in terrorism responses.

We have promoted the role of women in law enforcement agencies in the Sahel and built the capacity of criminal justice officials in Eastern and Southern Africa to address gender in their responses to terrorism.  We plan to particularly expand this assistance in Mozambique in the coming year.

Finally, in North Africa we have been working in Algeria and Morocco, where we are currently expanding our support on the investigation and prosecution of women associated with terrorist groups, including foreign terrorist fighters.

Looking ahead, we will strive to leverage our Strategic Vision for Africa to prevent the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls in African criminal justice systems, whether as professionals or as victims and perpetrators.

Partnerships have been a cornerstone of our efforts to empower women in Africa, and we will look to build broader and stronger cooperation with key actors in the region.

Today, I am glad to be joined by panellists from our allies in the continent.

The African Union, the Women’s Development Organization of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding, and the Lake Chad Basin Commission are all doing important work to give women a voice in terrorism responses.

We will strive to continue and expand our cooperation with you, to stand by the people of Africa against terrorism and violent extremism.

Together, we can empower Africa’s women to lead the way, in institutions and in communities, to better protect women, girls, and everyone against the crimes perpetrated by terrorist groups.

Thank you.