Women are Key to Fighting Radical Extremism and Terrorism: A Response to President Obama's State of the Union Address

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In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about the U.S.’s role in combating terrorism. The AHA Foundation (http://www.theahafoundation.org), the leading organization working to end honor violence, believes that an enduring solution to fighting radical extremism and terrorism is empowering women.

Stephanie Baric, Executive Director of the AHA Foundation

Despite women being the most marginalized, they hold the key to transforming societies into more peaceful, democratic states.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about the United States taking a support role in combating terrorism. In the same way the United States will partner with nations and their security forces to “deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America,” the AHA Foundation would like to see the United States also support women’s rights activists to “stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.”

“Military action has long been our approach to dealing with radical extremism and terrorism. I would argue that a more enduring solution is to build strong, inclusive democratic states that address the root causes of extremism, which means supporting gender equality and empowering women,” said Stephanie Baric, Executive Director of the AHA Foundation. “When women assert their rights, they play a critical role in advancing democratic reform.”

The recent tragedies in Peshawar and Paris – and other acts of terrorism over the past decade – are the most acute aspect of violent extremism. The AHA Foundation also points to the chronic, devastating impact of radical extremism on women’s daily lives: limiting girls’ access to education; curtailing access to health care and services; perpetrating acts of violence such as kidnapping, rape, and murder and other actions intended to politically and socio-economically marginalize women and prevent their participation in the public sphere.

“But despite women being the most marginalized, they hold the key to transforming societies into more peaceful, democratic states. By supporting women’s rights, we can champion democracy, pluralism, human rights and the rule of law and counter radical extremism,” said Baric.

In the Middle East, courageous women have helped topple authoritarian regimes. Women took to the streets to demand change and reform to achieve social justice, human dignity, freedom, and civil and political rights. While the Arab Spring may feel like “one step forward, two steps back,” the potential of women has been unleashed. It can be seen in how women are increasingly challenging traditional gender roles and socioeconomic inequality.

“We must change the status of women and girls globally, so they can create peace and prosperity for themselves, their communities and the world. As President Obama stated in his address, ‘we do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.’” said Baric.

To read a more detailed response from the AHA Foundation to President Obama’s State of the Union address, visit http://www.theahafoundation.org.

About the AHA Foundation
Founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the AHA Foundation is the leading organization working to end honor violence that shames, hurts or kills thousands of women and girls in the U.S. each year, and puts millions more at risk. Get involved at theahafoundation.org.

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Stephanie Libby
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