Women without Borders’ (WwB) network of Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) will convene in the Austrian province of Carinthia for its third meet-up, entitled ‘The Way Out; Women Know How!’ The purpose of this year’s week-long summit is to equip female SAVE network chapter activists with the tools to intervene during the early stages of the radicalisation process in their communities through strategic WwB-designed training sessions. In preparation for the launch of SAVE network’s ‘Mothers for Change’ campaign, leading academics and thought leaders from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Yemen, Israel, Palestine, and Somalia will learn how to train mothers in their communities and countries of origin to identify warning signs pointing to radicalisation in their children, families, and communities.

In May 2010, Women without Borders’ (WwB) network of Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) will convene in the Austrian province of Carinthia for its third meet-up, entitled ‘The Way Out; Women Know How!’ The chief objective of the training week is to strengthen the vision and cohesion of the global SAVE network through a series of workshops centred around conflict resolution. Participants will advance their leadership skills discover, among other things, how new media tools can help to maintain the network.

Specifically, this year’s week-long summit will work to equip female SAVE network chapter activists with the tools to intervene during the early stages of the radicalisation process in their communities through strategic WwB-designed training sessions. In preparation for the launch of SAVE network’s ‘Mothers for Change’ campaign, fourteen leading academics and thought leaders from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Yemen, Israel, Palestine, and Somalia will learn how to train mothers in their communities and countries of origin to identify warning signs pointing to radicalisation in their children, families, and communities.

WwB’s global ‘Mothers for Change’ campaign promises to empower and enable mothers to prevent the spread of violent extremism in at-risk communities. Viewing women as situated at the critical nexus between family and society, WwB sees that they must be well-equipped to advocate alternatives to violent extremism, and to challenge radical ideologies before they take root. The campaign seeks to raise awareness around the untapped potential of mothers, who, as WwB sees it, are strategically positioned for this role at the centre of the family, where they can be the first to recognise signs of resignation and anger in their children. ‘Mothers for Change’ hopes to initiate a movement of courageous mothers who will act as early-warning systems when their sons, daughters, or husbands exhibit tell-tale signs of violent ideologies.

The first half of SAVE network summit will focus on storytelling processes for conflict resolution and reconciliation, provide a space for the exchange of best practice models, and advance implementation strategies for SAVE network country chapters. The second half will delve deeper into dialogue-to-action strategies. May de Silva, Executive Director of Women into Politics, will meet with chapter groups to develop long-term strategic plans to create a clearer overview of what ‘Mothers for Change’ will look like in each of the countries. The chapter groups aim to discuss topics ranging from programme structures to resource needs, and, as a group, shall work together to plan how to transform their visions into reality. The SAVE network participants also will meet with the provincial government’s Minister for Gender Affairs.

Following this summit, each SAVE chapter participant will go on develop a three-month pilot project to implement a ‘Mothers for Change’-related programme. In order to do so, participants will draw on their skills from the ‘New Social Media and Technology’ workshop. The chapter coordinators thus will immediately translate their learnings into action upon returning to their home countries, which will help to build the foundations of a global network of courageous mothers working to tackle issues of radicalisation at the local level.

The participants:

Indonesia
Lily Zakiyah Munir: Director and co-founder of the Centre for Pesantren and Democracy Studies (CePDeS), the founding member of SAVE network Indonesia, and a scholar specialising in Islamic feminism. Lily has organised youth retreats for hundreds of high school students to empower them to pursue non-violent forms of conflict resolution.

Pakistan
Arshi Saleem Hashmi: Senior Research Analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad and Assistant Adjunct Professor at the National Defense University in Islamabad. She specialises in Religion and Politics of Violent Conflicts.

Falaknaz Asfandyar: Became an activist in Swat Valley in Pakistan after her husband, Amirzeb Asfandyar, a prominent politician, was assassinated in a roadside bombing, allegedly by a Taliban warlord. She works to bring attention to the plight of Swat Valley inhabitants and also assists in distributing aid and raising awareness around internally displaced persons in the region.

Yemen
Fahmia al Fotih: coordinator of WwB’s SAVE network Yemen and freelance journalist for Yemen Times. Previously, she worked as a consultant for USAID and UNIFEM. She is responsible for managing the ongoing operations for the SAVE Yemen network and facilitating the implementation of the ‘Mothers for Change’ programme.

Fatima Al Zuhairi: Principal of the Rabi ‘a al-Adawiyy’, a School in Sana’a where she works to raise the next generation of Yemenis to be healthier, more educated, and more connected with the world beyond Yemen’s borders.

Noor Baabad: Assistant Deputy Minister for Social Care and a member of the Higher Council for Women. Noor has advocated women’s legal rights in Yemen, reconciliation between northern and southern Yemen, and an end to revenge killings.

India
Archana Kapoor: Founder of SMART, a local NGO working with marginalised communities in Northern India. She is editor and publisher of the political magazine ‘Hardnews’ and coordinates SAVE India network activities for WwB.

Israel
Robi Damelin: Spokesperson for the Parents’ Circle Families Forum, an organisation that supports bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families and advocates reconciliation between Israel and Palestine.

Palestine
Asma Asfour: First elected woman to join the Sinjel Municipality in the Ramallah District in 2005. As a council member, she advocates gender equality, greater female participation in Palestinian politics, and improved educational resources in Palestine.

Somalia
Qoran Noor: Gender and Human Rights consultant for United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Over the last five years, she has been working in Kenya and other areas of Africa as a Programme Manager on projects related to women’s rights, public health, and gender issues.

Bosnia
Memnuna Zvizdic: Executive Director of Žene Ženama, an organisation that bridges the divide between religious and ethnic communities in Bosnia. Memnuna has played a critical role as an advocate for democracy, human rights, security, and gender equality.

Trainers:
Anne Carr: Dialogue Practitioner and a leading storytelling trainer for conflict resolution with twenty-five years of experience in Northern Ireland. She was the founder of the first integrated school in Northern Ireland and now works as a private consultant and a member of the board at ‘Women into Politics’, where she encourages women to share their experiences of the conflicts in Northern Ireland as a way to foster community resilience and achieve stability.

May de Silva: Director of ‘Women into Politics’, an NGO that works to bolster the number of women in decision-making roles. ‘Women into Politics’ provides courses to develop political leadership skills, networking, and mentoring opportunities, and it acts as a platform to discuss the role of women in grassroots organisations.

Catherine McCartney: Dialogue Co-ordinator for ‘Women into Politics’. She has been leading training workshops for women in grassroots organisations for the past fifteen years. She also acts as a representative for ‘Women into Politics’ to the Human Rights Consortium.

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