UNDP Webinar on The Nexus between Masculinities and Femininities in Violent Extremism

By Allie Kim

On 24th November 2020, the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) hosted a webinar to discuss the gender perspective on preventing violent extremism(PVE). This event was in conjunction with the UNDP’s recent research titled ‘Conflicting identities: The nexus between masculinities, femininities and violent extremism.’ The session was composed of a diverse presentation from different stakeholders, including UNDP staff on the international and regional level, and academic researchers. The departure point of the webinar was the recent finding of the UNDP that one of the aspects that drive violent extremism is marginalisation, the sense of inequality, and lack of hope. This finding led to a conclusion that, having a full understanding of how the notion of gender, more specifically, the concept of masculinity and femininity is essential, by allowing us to have better-designed PVE programmes. While the event shared research results and practices on the ground, it also signalises that there are still more researches and interventions needed, in order to build solid understanding on how the gender perspective plays in the field of violent extremism.

The Role of Women of Faith in Preventing Violent Extremism

The first presentation given by Ms Deepika Singh (UNDP), introduced the Role of Women of Faith, with a highlight on the critical activities implemented by the organisation ‘Religions for Peace’. Ms Singh noted that the work of women in faith in the area of PVE stems from the idea that women are an integral part of peace. A few key activities were carried out in conflict situations, for example, in Sierra Leone, women of faith contributed hugely during the negotiation with the violent extremist groups(e.g. rebel forces and armed groups). She also introduced the work in peace took place Myanmar, a story of a woman of faith who lived in IDP camps engaged in building a relationship between Buddhist and Muslim groups through conflict resolution and advocacy.

The Concept of Masculinity in PVE and the Interplay with Femininity

Mr David Duriesmith (University of Sheffield) delivered his presentation on his research on the relationship between violent extremism and the concept masculinity. In his view, In the field of VE, there is an increasing interest in studying masculinity because people have realised that men’s idea of gender will impact VE by inviting more violent group and drive extreme measure during extremism. One should be careful to understand the notion of masculinity, as it carries many dimensions. Mr Duriesmith added that it is because the definition of masculinity is often disinformed and misinformed. He added that, for example, one who carries those notions, for example, hypermasculinity or toxic masculinity tend to participate in more extreme violent activities. He, however, brought the fact to the attention that the mere concept of masculinity does not answer why in a particular context for all involved in violent extremism. He concluded by stressing that the study in this field needs more empirical work, including the interaction between men and women. Further, more research on how VE act and diverge in different concept and context and no universal idea exist and might mislead our understanding of PVE.

Success PVE Stories by UNDP with Particular Gender-Sensitive Response

Several presentations were given by staff members of the UNDP, mainly to share the success story in the field of violent extremism. The best practice shared by Mr Hamza(UNDP Pakistan) was about the team’s PVE intervention in online space, noting that ‘online space’ is a portal where inequality and marginalisation activities occur because of the power of anonymity. The alternative messaging campaign will be initiated, including SNS based information about toxic masculinity behaviour against women and will also provide stories about aggressive behaviour. In addition, Ms Fanny Arendt talked about the programmes in the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub. She said the office carried out gender impact and analysis, it impacts power dynamic and how we can work towards to PVE because not enough attention has been paid to the harmful notion of gender equality. As a result, the UNDP now gives training to community leaders to help individuals to have empathy on women victims. These approaches are adopted throughout the UNDP Rule of Law programme. She explained that the results show that local elderly have more understanding of local women. The UNDP also created a regional video project which features different stories of people who are affected by violent extremism. It shows man and woman, can suffer differently from violent extremism can affect each individual, using the power of storytelling.