Despite widespread concern about violent extremism and radicalisation around the world, prevention strategies often neglect vital tools: communities, families, and mothers of at-risk children. In the hopes of redressing the balance, Women without Borders (WwB) developed the ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ Model, which aims to empower mothers to play an active role in the prevention of radicalisation and the building of community resilience. MotherSchools Germany was launched after the Bavarian government reached out to Women without Borders to explore the possibility of bringing the MotherSchools Model to Lower Franconia. To date there have been two rounds of MotherSchools in four locations and approximately 200 women from a range of backgrounds, including a group of women who had come to Germany as refugees from Syria, have taken part.
Extremism has gravely impacted on Germany’s modern era. From the rise of the National Socialist Party in the 1930s to the Red Army Faction, an extremist left-wing cell that carried out bombings and kidnappings in the postwar period, violent extremism has found an expression on both ends of the political spectrum. While radicalisation became significantly less prevalent towards the end of the twentieth century, extremist ideologies are once again on the rise. A number of terrorist attacks in recent years as well as an increase in recruitment by Islamist groups abroad have made radicalisation a major concern in modern Germany. Various prevention strategies are in place across the country, but more needs to be done to develop a cohesive, community-based approach that focuses on preventing rather than merely combatting violent extremism.
Women without Borders’ (WwB) ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ Model, with its proven track-record in building community resilience around the world, offers a viable way forward. With the potential to help mothers contribute to preventing violent extremism (PVE), it is also a pioneering scheme that aims to include demographics which usually are neglected in PVE policy and decision-making. Recognising the significance of this, local government in Bavaria reached out to WwB to explore the possibility of bringing the Model to Lower Franconia. Preparations started in early 2017 and four MotherSchools groups were launched in September in Aschaffenburg, Erlenbach, Schweinfurt, and Würzburg. The first round of MotherSchools saw 58 participants and 14 teachers and notetakers take part in the programme. A second generation of MotherSchools participants graduated from the programme in late 2018. Since the beginning of MotherSchools Germany, the programme has engaged some 200 women.
The MotherSchools groups included participants from a range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, including women with migrant backgrounds and a group of mothers who had moved to Germany as refugees from Syria. The groups were also partially conducted in Turkish and Arabic so that participants could express themselves with greater ease and more freely.