Using social media to have a constructive dialogue with women expressing extremist sentiments.
The internet permeates all aspects of modern life and violent extremism is no exception. Violent extremist networks have excelled at engaging with individuals online in personalized ways that have enhanced processes of radicalization and recruitment. Within this trend, there is also a blind spot around the question of gender and the involvement of women within these movements. Looking at ISIS alone, hundreds of Western women have travelled great distances to join this terrorist organization. How and why are women and girls being recruited, and what can be done to counter this new threat?
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) has piloted the One2One programme – a programme which uses social media to engage with people expressing extremist sentiments. One2One aims to sew the initial seeds of doubt and create a methodology around online interventions that can be replicated and scaled up.
The Pilot programme has achieved a 59% percent engagement rate by using former extremists whose own experiences can resonate strongly with young people heading down extremist routes.
ISD now seeks your help to pilot the first Women's One2One programme to proactively engage with females heading down the path of radicalization. Women One2one will:
- build up a network of former female extremists and deradicalisation practitioners.
- identify girls and women at risk of recruitment online.
- directly reach out to engage them in a constructive dialogue designed to sew the first seeds of doubt .
What help is needed
- Private sector funding - While government funding is often useful in seeding initiatives, these more downstream projects, engaging with those already progressing down the path of radicalization, are best supported financially by private funding streams that aren’t linked directly to governments. Network management, data analytics and evaluation costs for sensitive projects such as One2One need transparent funding streams that do not jeopardise the partners we work with.
- Expert partnerships - There is a lack of female involvement in the downstream counter extremism space. Practitioners, mentors and psychologists that have training in engagement are vital in scaling up initiatives like one2one so that engagement is personalized, direct and sustained. Partnerships with organisations with reach to credible voices and mentors are welcome and needed. Donating a little time goes a long way in this space.
- The right voices - Former extremists are often the most credible voice in this space. They are able to engage with radicalizing individuals on ideological and personal levels. There is still a long way to go in facilitating former extremists, particularly women, in engagement programs. Both legal and access barriers have denied many the opportunity to engage in a much needed space. ISD’s Women and Extremism (WaE) program looks to build partnerships with other organizations and networks that build interfaith dialogues, exit programmes and empowerment initiatives for women. There is a severe lack of female role models in this space and bringing forward strong female voices to counter extremism and play active roles in counter narratives.
- Contacts - The WaE network is always looking to bring together top female experts from different regions and sectors who have proficiencies within this topic in an effort to enhance the role of women in countering and preventing violent extremism. Let us know who you know.
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