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WomEx – Women/Girls, Gender in Extremism and Prevention

Country
Germany
Target Audience
Youth/pupils/studentsFamiliesLocal community organisations/NGOs
key themes association
Deradicalisation/disengagementGender/women
Peer Reviewed practice
No
Year
2021

Organisation

Cultures Interactive e.V. (CI) — Intercultural Education and Violence Prevention

Is an NGO that works both in prevention and first-line deradicalisation with at-risk young people that engage in or have shown susceptibility to violent right-wing extremism or ethno-nationalism/religious fundamentalism, or to xenophobic, racist, and other forms of hateful and exclusionary behaviour.

In 2005, the CI tackled right-wing extremist/neo-Nazi subcultures which emerged in East Germany after reunification. Since 2008, the CI has also worked in innercity districts suffering from migration-related ethnic and religious radicalisation and hate crime.

The CI's Federal Model Projects and EU-ISEC and EU research projects focused on developing methods for prevention and rehabilitation work with high-risk youth populations which have largely been failed by existing measures.

Methodologically, the CI approach for prevention and deradicalisation combines youth-cultural creativity workshops with civic education and psychologically based self-awareness group work. The CI also provides gender-specific and gender awareness methods (WomEx), and offers advanced training in methodology for youth work practitioners, to enable them to proactively and efficiently handle incidents of hate speech/crime and extremist indoctrination/recruitment (LocalDerad).

The beneficiaries and partners of such CI interventions are schools/teachers, youth centres, street/youth workers, prisons, local authorities/police, communities and local press/media — especially around social hotspot areas.

In 2014, the CI began working more closely with partners in central and eastern European Member States, and started acting as co-chairing organisation for the RAN working group on Deradicalisation, comprising an EU-wide first-line workers' organisation involved in deradicalisation processes for all forms of extremism, including religious extremism and gangs.

In 2015, the CI was appointed a Federal Centre of Excellence for Youth-Cultural Prevention of Violent Extremism and Xenophobia (by the government's Prevention Department).

Type of Organisation: NGO

Project description

The WomEx practice was derived from the following observations: (i) violent extremist, terrorist or hate crime offenders very frequently also hold sexist and homophobic attitudes, i.e. have highly rigid and conflictive issues related to gender (especially when linked to the two major threats of violent extremism, right-wing extremism and religious fundamentalism, both Muslim and Christian); (ii) these conflictive gender issues not only coincide with violent extremism and hate crime, but also constitute key psychological driving forces behind these phenomena; (iii) methods designed to address issues of gender and gender identity may therefore have a powerful and sustainable impact on prevention and deradicalisation interventions — one that often carries more weight than ideological/religious issues.

For example, practitioners have recurrently found that violently extremist young men compensate for an insecure sense of male identity and masculinity by acting out in hateful ways against women, homosexuals and others who by appearance or behaviour may confuse the restrictive gender role order valued by these young men. Moreover, findings have shown that women active in extremism overwhelmingly tend to support and actively reconfirm such restrictive gender roles: they thus share these sexist and homophobic attitudes and draw motivation from them for extremist activities.

Practitioners note that at the same time, these women may feel empowered thanks to their newly gained opportunities for extremist engagement and activities (e.g. as ideological supporters) — by providing internal social cohesion, by helping to prepare terrorist actions, and occasionally, by committing such hate crimes and attacks themselves. In turn, extremist movements take strategic advantage of such socially imposed gender roles: they position their female followers in inconspicuous positions where they can propagate extremism unobtrusively.

For instance, in Germany, right-wing extremist women may participate in child daycare, parents' organisations, schools, and family welfare and professional social work. Their aim is to infiltrate these systems and support the current mainstreaming of right-wing extremist attitudes into the middle classes.

Thus, both WomEx's gender-specific interventions with girls/women and its gender-focused methods across different settings are necessary components of any prevention strategy, and may be applied to great effect in deradicalisation and prevention settings. Originating in the Cultures Interactive (CI) 'Girrrl Power' workshops, WomEx has provided young at-risk persons with various methods for increasing awareness of gender roles and the part they play in key situations of conflict, hatred and escalation in their lives.

In particular, WomEx interventions aim to make participants more aware of the intrinsic connection between rigid/restrictive gender roles, polarisation and violent extremism. Participants also learn how certain biographical and milieu-specific conditions (violent/relational/sexual abuse, neglect, degradation and psychological trauma) may lead to the adoption of restrictive and exclusionary gender role concepts, and at the same time may make women susceptible to violent extremist behaviour.

WomEx methods work on promoting alternative and more inclusive modes of male and female identity practices, and training to establish alternative patterns of behaviour which comply with a human rights-based and prosocial understanding of gender within democratic citizenship.

The WomEx project was a 'Prevention of and Fight against Crime' (ISEC) national starter measure in 2013-14.

Deliverables

The WomEx.org website has been under development since late 2014. Various resources and materials (borrowed from similar approaches and organisations in the field) were added in 2015 and thereafter.

Notably, a manuscript about the research underpinning the WomEx practice has been drafted and is available online.

Reports have been drafted about two international WomEx conferences (in cooperation with the Radicalisation Awareness Network Deradicalisation (RAN Derad)).

Contact details

Address

Cultures Interactive e.V.
Mainzer Str. 11
12053 Berlin
Germany

Contact person: Silke Baer
Telephone: (+49) 30 60 401 950, (+49) 30 76 236 862
Email | Website

Anika Posselius
Email

Harald Weilnböck
Email

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WomEx – Women/Girls, Gender in Extremism and Prevention
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