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Countering extremism in Kawar Maila

Supporting women’s leadership in promoting rights, peace and human security

This project aimed to support innovative local solutions for countering extremism in Kawar Maila in northeast Nigeria, which has suffered from high levels of recruitment by Jama’atul ahl al-sunnah li da’awati wal jihad – commonly known as Boko Haram.

The high levels of recruitment of boys by Boko Haram has made neighbouring communities and security forces suspicious of those in Kawar Maila – especially mothers – and left residents feeling isolated, reluctant to use social services and negatively affected economically. It is important to address this stigma and help support the community in countering further extremism.

We hoped to increase women’s leadership on this issue, providing a platform for learning between local civil society groups, NGOs and government partners, as well as between grassroots activists in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. In doing so, we hoped to better inform the policies and programmes of international donors and institutions, based on the realities on the ground.

We distributed small and medium grants to fund local initiatives aimed at supporting women’s leadership in countering violent extremism and promoting diversity. We exchanged strategies, ideas and lessons learned across countries affected by similar issues. And we exchanged this information with security officials, religious and community leaders, as well as international donors and policy-makers.

The project created greater agency among participants and the wider community, who were empowered with greater capacity for and understanding of conflict resolution and conflict prevention. A total of 30 women, 30 youth and 40 boys and girls who had been victims of Boko Haram and/or security agents in Kawar Maila Ward perceived an improved ability to access healthcare, food aid and psychosocial support as a result of the activities in the project.

Over the four months of intra and inter-community dialogue, 65% of participants, especially women, noted an increase in accessing vital public services, including education, healthcare, psychosocial support and the police.

This project ran from December 2015 to March 2016.