Mama Mwaka* is a 50-year-old resident of Likoni, Kenya. Harassment and unwarranted arrests of Muslim men including her own son, bred Mwaka’s resentment against security forces. She struggled to overcome these accusations of terrorism that tainted her family’s reputation.
Identified as a victim of extremism after the 2014 Al-Shabaab attack on Likoni church, she participated in the Safe Spaces program run by Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics Trust (CICC Trust), a GCERF grant recipient. The Safe Spaces sessions aimed to be a starting place for women, aged 18 to 60, to heal from traumatic experiences. Through this program, Mwaka learned about the recruitment techniques and narratives used by violent extremist groups.
One day Mwaka overheard her friend Rizki* mentioning that her son Abdul* got a job in Lamu. Cognizant of recruitment techniques that she had learned, Mwaka informed Rizki and other women on how youth were being recruited to extremism and to Al-Shabaab through such job offers.
She educated Abdul about recruitment as a means for radicalization and accompanied him to the recruitment place where, upon arrival, he noticed the men present were different from the ones he had previously met. She started questioning the men and noticed that they were hesitant to answer. They made phone calls and then left in a taxi.
She saw other youth with their bags ready to travel and warned them that they were possibly being recruited into Al-Shabaab. She took them to the police station where they explained the situation. The police investigated and scouted the place to see if the recruiters would return, however, they never did.
Today, Mama Mwaka continues to talk to mothers and to young boys and girls in her area about the dangers of extremism and recruiters. She has become a peace leader in her community.
*Names have been changed to protect the people involved.
Read more GCERF Snap Shots here.
GCERF is a GCTF Inspired Institution. The Inspired Institutions are independent organizations that complement the Forum’s mission and reinforce the practical use of GCTF resources across the globe.
Photo Credit: Council of Women Clergy, Kenya