Dogmatism or pragmatism?

Violent extremism and gender in the central Sahel

The central Sahel is experiencing an escalation in violence that illustrates the problem faced by states in the region as they endeavour to hold back the advance of jihadist groups.

Several studies have provided important perspectives in understanding the factors behind the control and influence violent extremist groups have gained in the border zones of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

However, one factor that has often been mentioned but rarely analysed in depth is the link between gender and violent extremism in the Sahel.

Although gender relations have often been treated as a factor of little relevance in the analysis of violent extremism in the Sahel, it is important to acknowledge the considerable efforts that violent extremist groups appear to be making to control women and ensure they conform to the behavioural norms of jihadist ideology.

Similarly, the common perception that women are merely passive victims of acts of violence and of the rules imposed by violent extremist groups deserves more in-depth analysis.

This report aims to explore the link between gender relations and violent extremism in the Sahel. It therefore seeks to understand the extent to which the expectations associated with gender roles contribute to the involvement of men and women in supporting violent extremism in the Sahel and examines the specific role of women in this context.

The research is based on empirical data collected in late 2019 within communities in the Liptako-Gourma region that are particularly exposed to the activities of violent extremist groups.

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