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Understanding the Motivations that Drive Men’s and Boys’ Participation in Violent Extremist Groups

Craig Zelizer

July 20, 2020

New Report from ProMundo

To see the full report click here

Traditional efforts aiming to reduce violent extremism – a form of extremism that condones and perpetrates violence under a particular ideology – provide men and boys with alternatives to joining extremist groups, such as employment opportunities and access to education. Even though men account for the majority of participants in violent extremism, existing approaches often fail to consider the gendered factors that may drive men and boys to support and join such groups. This report attempts to contribute to a narrative shift around violent extremism, to include a more in-depth, gendered understanding of why some men participate.

A new report produced by Promundo finds that while a gender analysis of violent extremism should seek to understand and include women’s and girls’ experiences, it is crucial to consider that men and boys are gendered, as well, and to examine the ways in which their gendered identities motivate their participation in violent extremist groups.

The report, Masculinities and Preventing Violent Extremism: Making the Connections, which follows others in Promundo’s “Making the Connections” series, shares findings from a desk review of literature on the field of preventing violent extremism (PVE), and includes programs that seek to prevent violent extremism and assesses how each program does or does not do so by transforming harmful gender norms. By asking what masculinities have to do with violent extremism, the report provides a deeper understanding of the ways in which harmful masculinities, gender inequality, and violence-supportive attitudes and practices, as well as young men’s identity construction and trauma from their own experiences of violence, influence their engagement in violent extremism. The report provides recommendations in order to challenge structures of power and violence that support gender-based violence (GBV) and gender inequality.

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