Responding to the spread of radicalisation in France, Women without Borders (WwB) implemented its ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ Model in three municipalities across Paris in 2022 with support from the L’Oréal Fund for Women. The MotherSchools in France joins programmes implemented in sixteen other countries to date. WwB’s growing Parenting for Peace movement builds resilience in homes and communities that are vulnerable to violent extremism and heightens global awareness of mothers as changemakers and agents of prevention.
In 2022, Women without Borders (WwB) brought its global Parenting for Peace programme to France for the first time, in cooperation with its local implementing partner Banlieues Santé. Reaching the city of Paris, this pilot round of MotherSchools France was funded by the L’Orèal Fund for Women. Carried out in the communes of Clichy, Épinay-sur-Seine, and Saint-Ouen, the iteration saw mothers across 3 groups complete the programme in December 2022. The culmination was marked by a formal Graduation ceremony that celebrated the achievements of the MotherSchools Participants, Teachers, and Notetakers. Prominent speakers included Alexandra Palt (CEO of the Fondation L’Oréal), Sabine Staffelmayr-Leleu (Ambassador of Austria in Paris), Abdelaali El Badaoui (President of Banlieues Santé), as well as WwB’s Executive Director Laura Kropiunigg.
Women without Borders has been implementing contextualised iterations of its pioneering ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ Model since 2013. True to WwB’s maxim that ‘peace starts at home’, MotherSchools programmes identify, unlock, and activate the potential of mothers preventing violent extremism (MPVE). This grassroots intervention strategy upgrades existing social services and provides local stakeholders with the essential structures, tools, and skills to address and counter the spread of extremist ideologies. Each implementation cycle sees concerned and affected mothers of adolescent and young adult children convene in an effort to advance their individual capacity, capabilities, and emotional literacy, and to thus safeguard their children and strengthen community resilience. By harnessing ‘Parenting for Peace’, the programme empowers and positions mothers as the first line of defence in vulnerable households and neighbourhoods around the world.
MotherSchools are rolled out through a five-phase approach over the course of a year. Together with a local implementing partner, members of WwB’s core team identify individuals from professional pools within the community to become MotherSchools Teachers for implementation and Notetakers for monitoring. After WwB’s standardised vetting process and multi-day training workshop, successful candidates assume their positions and deliver the WwB MotherSchools Curriculum by teaching their respective groups of mothers (Participants). MotherSchools are monitored, evaluated, and analysed by WwB through a rigorous process to document changing dynamics over time and ensure the programme’s effectiveness. At the MotherSchools Graduation Ceremony, graduates are awarded certificates following an interactive presentation on the programme’s successes, key findings, and its best practice qualities. The ceremony engages and connects MotherSchools Actors (Teachers, Notetakers, LIP) and Participants, their family members, community stakeholders, and local government officials. Participants in particular are provided with an opportunity and suitable platform to take a stance on extremism and voice their concerns.
Advancing grassroots leadership and strengthening community resilience are at the core of the MotherSchools Model’s governing philosophy: WwB not only equips women with the tools and confidence to translate learnings into action; it also builds up local ownership and institutional capacity by providing essential training, guidance, and mentorship throughout. The Curriculum employs developmental psychology, self-confidence training, and theoretical sessions to define radicalisation and prevention at the individual, family, and community levels. Sessions include exercises that facilitate dialogue, information exchanges, and critical reflection using context-based techniques that apply to the mothers’ daily lives. Participants undergo a process of gradual awareness and leadership building in three successive stages: starting with the self, moving on to the family and community, and finally arriving at the individual’s role in security. Buy-in from the family and community is developed over time, across various phases, and becomes most evident during the Graduation Ceremony, where it is common practice for MotherSchools Participants to speak in front of their families and stakeholders from all levels of society about the taboo issue of extremism, often doing so in public for the first time.