In many situations, women of all ages are the first to experience violent acts of extremism. Extremist groups understand that using women instead of men can give them a tactical advantage. Terrorist groups everywhere take advantage of innocent civilians to execute their plans, typically as suicide bombers. In 2019, UNICEF completed a study of bomb attacks across Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. The data was alarming. From 2014 to 2016, 18 percent of all suicide bombers were women. Understanding the magnitude of this issue, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Steve Chabot (R-OH-01), Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Lee Zeldin (R-NY-01) and Bill Keating (D-MA-09) put together the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act.
The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act
The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act is a bipartisan plan to improve peacebuilding efforts and counterterrorism by focusing on women. Increasing the participation from the United States in efforts against violent extremism is vital. Representatives introduced the bill on International Women’s Day in 2019. The Act accomplishes a lot.
It calls for assistance to support women-led and women’s empowerment civil society organizations to work on countering violent extremism and terrorism. The bill increases training opportunities in Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) programs. Furthermore, it directs the State Department to seek to double the number of women trained in Antiterrorism Assistance programs.
In addition, it encourages foreign countries to include women’s participation in their own Antiterrorism Assistance programs. The bill authorizes the Defense Department, State Department and USAID to research the intersection of women and counterterrorism. Finally, it requires the State Department to create annual Country Reports on Terrorism to address gender-specific drivers of radicalization/recruitment strategies in at least five countries.
Decreasing Acts of Terrorism
By following these six points, the United States is determined to fight terrorism across the world. In conjunction with the Women, Peace and Security Act, the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act acknowledges women’s roles in violent extremism and promotes participation in the United States’s plan on counterterrorism. Efforts like these have shown to be effective globally. According to the Global Terrorism Index in 2019, total deaths from terrorism are now down by 52 percent from their peak in 2014. With this being said, however, there is still a long way to go to completely eradicate extremism and promote counterterrorism.
– Srihita Adabala