The Commonwealth has hosted an event unveiling a report on how the Cameroon government and civil society can support women returning from situations of extremism.
The report Invisible Women: Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration from Violent Extremism, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), was launched at the event in Douala, Cameroon.
The event featured a panel discussion attended by more than 50 people from various parts of the country. Speakers discussed the report findings which offers new evidence on the gender dimensions involved in ensuring the safe return and reintegration of violent extremists.
Opening the event, Anna Sherburn, Deputy Head of the Commonwealth’s countering violent extremism (CVE) unit, said women are crucial partners in the Commonwealth’s efforts to build resilience to violent extremism.
She said: “We cannot address the damage and destruction of violent extremism unless we involve all of society in the solution.
“Involving women in solutions for preventing and countering violent extremism, and designing strategies that respond to the needs of women, as well as men, is a crucial part of building pathways to peace.”
Other speakers were ICAN’s programme director Melinda Holmes, UNDP Cameroon’s resident representative Jean Luc Stalon and Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development’s founder Hamsatu Allamin.
Ms Holmes, who co-authored the report, said: "This report will help Cameroon learn from the experiences of those from around the world who have been working to reintegrate women and girls from violent extremism.
“This report, and the experiences and lessons it provides, can provide guidance for Cameroon to help address violent extremist conflict."
Hamsatu Allamin, from Nigeria, was a lead contributor to the report. She underlined the need to advance a holistic and gender-responsive approach to return, rehabilitation and reintegration from violent extremism through decisive policymaking and programming.
The report reveals that most countries lack policies related to the treatment of returnees associated with extremist groups. It shows a wide gap between on-the-ground realities and global policies, particularly in the case of women and children as returnees.
The discussion encouraged collaboration among local, national and international actors as well as listening to solutions pioneered by women peacebuilders. Doing so will contribute to developing and implementing national CVE strategies for gender-sensitive disengagement and reintegration of returnees into society.