By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. The increasing extremist activities in some parts of Africa and their destabilizing effects are taking a toll on local populations. Among the populations, the most affected are women and children.

2. Several factors across the continent make women and children most vulnerable to the menace currently challenging some African localities and states.

3. From the Sahel and Northern Nigeria in West Africa; to Southern Somalia in the East; and Cabo Delgado in Southern Africa, sedentary life in rural Africa is anchored by women.

4. Farming activities in these regions have women as major players and are therefore ordinarily less likely to migrate. Thus, the activities of terror groups make women an overwhelming majority of internally displaced persons, IDPs. Getting displaced comes with concomitant vulnerabilities as women and children get exploited.

5. In rural places where terror activities are getting entrenched, the education of the girl child is instantly threatened or truncated. Sometimes, these emanate from the extremist ideological disposition of terror groups. It is also a result of the presence of violence that makes it impossible for children to go to school. In Cabo Delgado, children as young as 11 are reported to have been beheaded by ISIS affiliates in the province.

6. Where women and children decide to stay in terror-infested localities, they become convenient human shields to terror groups. For this reason, many women and children have become “collateral damage” in the fight against terrorism.

7. Cases of enslavement, forced marriage and rape have been reported in places where terror groups have operated. In Nigeria, the “Chibok Girls” who were kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists were subsequently forced into marriage with extremists. The psychological trauma and lifelong mental health issues that follow such ordeals are rarely accounted for.

8. Even after extremists are dislodged from these areas, the processes leading to a return to normalcy are often not inclusive enough concerning women. Most of these patriarchal societies are not gender sensitive.

9. There are many protocols—both continental and regional—that seek to protect women and children during a crisis. The reality, however, is that not much is seen on the ground concerning their implementation and efficacy in terror-infested geographies.

10. While states fight terrorism, there is the need and responsibility to have early warning and relief systems that cater for African women and children. These would need both local and international support and coordination.

11. Let’s stamp out terrorism…”

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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