Over the last decade, the “soft” approaches of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have emerged to supplement the “hard” security approaches of counterterrorism (CT). P/CVE approaches, which work to address the structural drivers of violence through collaboration between the governance, development, and peacebuilding sectors, have identified women and gender as critical elements for its success. Indeed, within the last five years there has been a sharp increase in policy and programming emphasizing the importance of “women’s empowerment” and “gender equality” in P/CVE activities. In part, this is the result of the push to “mainstream gender” within the security realm, an effort that has been officially unfolding since the adoption of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in 2000, which calls for the mainstreaming of gender throughout all areas related to peace and security. However, it remains a point of debate whether the proposed objectives of the WPS agenda — such as the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights and the ultimate goal of a more peaceful and safer world for both women and men — are commensurate with the security objectives of CT and P/CVE. While academic research has examined the impact of CT on women, human rights, and civil society organizations, no such studies exist for P/CVE.

Drawing on transnational and decolonial feminist theory and ethnographic methods, this project fills this research gap by examining the development and implementation of gendered P/CVE policy and practice across overlapping sectors, including multilateral development agencies, peacekeeping operations, civil society organizations, and military and state institutions. In order to understand how gender is conceptualized as instrumental to security strategies, the project proposes an in-depth study in one region — the Horn of Africa — in order to produce a nuanced study of how and why gendered security strategies are developed, and how they impact, and are impacted by, the local context in which they are implemented. Smaller studies are planned in additional contexts, including the Sahel, Bangladesh, Philippines, and the United States. As P/CVE continues to gain traction within the international cooperation and security sectors, academic research must study how and why gender matters, both at the symbolic, discursive level and the material, empirical level, for the development and implementation of P/CVE activities.

peace now

Reflections on New Frontiers and Challenges in Peacemaking

Peace & Security now

6 June 2024 - Maison de la paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2, 1202 Geneva, Auditorium 2

Mesok, E. (2022) “Beyond Instrumentalisation: Gender and Agency in the Prevention of Extreme Violence in Kenya”, Critical Studies in Terrorism, p. Forthcoming.   

Mesok, E. (2022) “Counterinsurgency, Community Participation, and the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Agenda in Kenya”, SMALL WARS AND INSURGENCIES, 33(4-5), pp. 720–741. Available at: 10.1080/09592318.2022.2037908.   

Mesok, E. (2022) “Combat Exclusion Policies and the Management of Gender Difference in the U.S. Military”, in A.D. Beth Bailey (ed.) Managing Sex in the U.S. Military. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, p. xxx.   

Naji, N. and Schildknecht, D. (2021) “Securing Swiss Futurity: The Gefährder Figure and Switzerland’s Counterterrorism Regime”, SOCIAL SCIENCES-BASEL, 10(12), p. 484. Available at: 10.3390/socsci10120484.   

Mesok, E., Drumond, P. and Zalweksi, M. (2020) “Sexual Violence in the Wrong(ed) Bodies: Moving Beyond the Gender Binary in International Relations”, International affairs, 96(5), pp. 1145–1226.