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U.S. Strategy to Support Women and Girls at Risk from Violent Extremism and Conflict
February 25, 2019

U.S. Strategy to Support Women and Girls at Risk from Violent Extremism and Conflict

February 13, 2019

The efforts of the U.S. government and our partners to address the adverse effects of violent extremism, terrorism, and conflict are more effective and sustainable when influential actors such as women and girls are leaders in preventing and responding to violent extremism, and when they have the opportunities and resources to mitigate it. This strategy aims to limit the destabilizing effects of violent extremism, including the risks it poses to women and girls, by supporting women and girls as actors in countering terrorist ideology to prevent terrorist radicalization in their families, communities, countries, and online.

Terrorist groups – including ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and the Taliban – have directly targeted women and girls to achieve ideological and tactical objectives. This fact reinforces the need for specific efforts to address the distinct impacts of violent extremism and terrorism on women and girls, and for us to partner with them to prevent it. By promoting our democratic values to act as a bulwark against radicalism and terrorism, and by supporting women and youth as prevention actors, we can make strides towards addressing the conditions that lead to terrorism and conflict.

The strategy will accelerate the incorporation of influential actors, such as women, into broader counterterrorism initiatives, such as community-engagement efforts. It will close gaps in women’s safety and empowerment to unlock their capacity in addressing the effects of violent extremism. Finally, it will respond to the role women and girls play as terrorist actors, recognizing the importance of targeted countering violent extremism (CVE) programs to address women’s disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration of women foreign terrorist fighters. In support of the National Security Strategy of the United States, this interagency approach complements existing policy frameworks on peace, security, and counterterrorism priorities.

Guiding Principles

Increase women and girls’ leadership, participation, and agency in addressing the lifecycle of violent extremism in fragile and conflict-affected environments. Enhancing the role of women as positive actors and first-line defenders to mitigate cycles of terrorism and conflict will increase the effectiveness and sustainability of our activities. To do so, the U.S. government’s efforts will consider the causes of women and girls’ radicalization to violence, prioritize their safety and access to education, and respect their human rights.

Anchor policies and programs in research and best practices. Grounding action in research and evidence will reinforce impact, foster long-term learning, and further strategic investments. Collaborating with other donors to promote quality research and learning will improve the specificity, relevance, and effectiveness of our CVE efforts.

Enhance long-term effectiveness through localized approaches, research, and analysis across CVE policies and activities. Incorporating gender considerations in the development of CVE and related conflict mitigation policies and programs will improve sustainability, effectiveness, and buy-in among implementing agencies. These efforts are most effective when they respond to local drivers of terrorism, empower women-led organizations, and engage entire communities.


Objective 1. Support Women as Effective Leaders and Participants in Preventing and Responding to Terrorist Radicalization. Based on their role, status, and influence in societies and families, women and girls can contribute to addressing terrorism, such as by identifying the early-warning signs of violent radicalization. In addition, supporting women’s meaningful participation in CVE can enhance resilience to specific terrorist threats. Efforts will include increasing women’s participation and influence; promoting community-based approaches; enhancing education, capacity building, and access to resources; and lastly, diplomatic outreach and donor coordination.

Objective 2. Promote and Protect the Rights, Safety, and Inclusion of Women and Girls. Safeguarding human and civil rights not only enables women and girls’ safe participation in society but also enhances the broader conditions for successful efforts to prevent terrorism. Addressing the safety and needs of women and girls who are victims and survivors of terrorist violence, such as those who are returning from captivity, mitigates the risks that threaten their reintegration into society, including barriers such as social stigma; marginalization; and poor access to services, resources, or support. Efforts will include addressing the needs of women and girls affected by terrorism; advancing security, justice, and human rights; and promoting safe, equal and effective education.

Objective 3. Counter Women’s Roles in Terrorism. Women and girls can perpetrate acts of violence. Addressing the specific role of women as radicalizers, facilitators, or perpetrators of violence must play a role in any CVE strategy. Reintegrating former female members or supporters of terrorist organizations also requires tailored approaches to disengagement and reintegration. Efforts will include countering women’s roles as terrorist actors; and addressing women’s disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration.

Objective 4. Internal Capacity Building and Coordination. Understanding the various drivers of terrorism for men and women is essential to crafting solutions that work, but require investments in unique resources, training, and analytical competencies to integrate women and girls into CVE initiatives in fragile and conflict-affected environments. Efforts will include bolstering policy planning and design and supporting U.S. government internal capacity building through education, training, and coordination.

Measuring Success

This strategy’s success depends on interagency cooperation and leveraging diverse resources. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) will build on a growing field of CVE best practices and existing U.S. foreign assistance frameworks. Programs that support this strategy will be accompanied by clearly developed and resourced M&E plans, which will include indicators linked to objectives. Routine diplomatic and grant reporting will serve as the primary means to monitor, assess, and share learning. The following will define the M&E activities of the Department of State and USAID for this strategy: Joint analysis; cross-learning; and standardization of reporting tools.