On May 8-10, 2017, a number of ICAN’s WASL partners participated in the U.S. Civil Society Working Group’s (CSWG) Global Forum on Women, Peace, and Security. The event was among the series of activities that the CSWG has organized to inform US policies and implementation of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. For 3 days, the CSWG in which ICAN is a founding member, brought together nine women civil society leaders from eight countries to discuss the contributions of women and women’s organizations to preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). ICAN/WASL partners present included Sureya Roble (Advocacy for Women in Peace and Security Africa, Kenya), Hamsatu Allamin (Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria), Mossarat Qadeem (PAIMAN Trust, Pakistan), Visaka Dharmadasa (Association of War Affected Women, Sri Lanka), Omezzine Khelifa (Mobdium, Tunisia), Robinah Rubimbwa (Coalition for Action on 1325, Uganda), Ruby Kholifah (The Asian Muslim Action Network, Indonesia), and Rosa Emilia Salamanca (Institute for Social and Economic Research Action, Colombia). Fauziya Abdi Ali of Women in International Security Kenya and Sisters Without Borders was also present.

During the forum, the women met with U.S. policymakers, including staff from the U.S. Department of State, USAID, U.S. Department of Defense, and USIP, to find ways for collaboration between those experts working on the ground and those shaping US policies, and to identify best practices. The group also met with members of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF), which is composed of thirty member states and is currently chaired by the Netherlands and Morocco. Members of the GCTF’s subgroup on CVE discussed their programming, and how they can better collaborate with civil society. In addition, Global Forum Participants attended individual meetings on the hill with staff from various Senate and Committee offices to discuss issues relating to CVE in the participants’ country of origin.

These meetings culminated in a public roundtable discussion in which our partners were able to discuss their work on the ground highlighting their personal experiences on engaging women in their P/CVE efforts. One partner rightly noted that the path to ending violent extremism is “from the hearts and minds of the people”. The panel also looked at how to navigate the different P/CVE agenda, the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, and individual country-led National Action Plans on Women, Peace, and Security. In discussing how to protect the women and the movement, there was universal agreement with our partner Robinah Rubimbwa when she stated that “visibility is our protection.” Omezzine Khelifa’s point that “We are doing our work locally, but through WASL we are also connected and working globally” also resonated widely. The Forum ended with a reception at the Residence of the Dutch Deputy Chief of Mission with participants, US CSWG members, and others who had been present during the 3-day event.

We were fortunate to get together such an impressive group of women. The discussions were not only lively and informative, but brought to the table many of the obstacles faced by women on the ground, including how to highlight the innovative work being done. As stated by Mossarat Qadeem, Co-Founder of the Paiman Trust in Pakistan and a founding member of WASL, “Women are empowered already, what we need is visibility.”

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