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Woman painting a body map as part of the project workshops

Gender and resistance to violent extremism: Untold stories of everyday resistance in Kenya


The British Academy Tackling the UK’s International Challenges 2018

Total value of project


Project team

Dr Sahla Aroussi (PI) University of Leeds, Dr Michaelina Jakala (Co-I) Coventry University, Fathima Azmiya (Co-I) Technical University Mombasa, Xavier Verhoest Art2Be


University of Leeds, Technical University Mombasa


Technical University Mombasa, Art2Be

Duration of project

31/01/2019 – 31/01/2022

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Project overview

Violent extremism is a controversial concept partly because there is no globally accepted definition on what it means. States often used violent extremism to refer to groups with violent Islamist agenda. The power to label and define groups as violent extremist generally lies with States and particularly the powerful ones. In Kenya, violent extremism has been largely framed by the State as a problem of Al-Shabaab and other Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS.

This project seeks to understand and redefine violent extremism from the ground up based on community’s understanding and experiences of this phenomenon. The project uses both gender and intersectionality perspective in order to explore how gender and other identity markers influence experiences and perceptions of violent extremism. In this project, we also focus on resistance to violent extremism at a community level. Narratives about violent extremism tend to focus on victimisation, radicalisation and violence. Although, stories of resistance to violent extremism are rarely heard, within communities, living with the threat of violent extremism, men and women alike are engaged in a process of everyday resistance.

Project objectives

The project will investigate the role that men and women play in grassroots and community levels in resisting and preventing violent extrermism in Kenya.

The project aims:

  1. To investigate the challenges of living with violent extremism in Kenya.
  2. To understand how violent extremism is defined at the community level.
  3. To understand the gender dynamics of violent extremism at community level in Kenya.
  4. To understand the issue of resistance to violent extremism and what this means in local context.
  5. To explore what strategies and methods are used in local communities in Kenya to resist violent extremism.
  6. To understand, through an intersectional lens, the role of gender in resistance to violent extremism in Kenya.
  7. To use arts based methodology to co-create a book illustrative of the narratives of resistance in Kenya.
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