US Gov’t Spends $500K on Gender Studies in Kenya

News: World News
by David Nussman  •  •  January 23, 2018   

Linking Islamic violence with cultural notions of masculinity, not violent ideology

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WASHINGTON ( - The U.S. State Department has offered a new grant for exploring the relationship between masculinity and violence in Kenya.

According to a report on Monday in the Washington Free Beacon, the government is seeking a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization that will conduct this research later this year for a tax-funded grant of $592,500.

The State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism announced the grant on January 12. It involves associating the rise of Islamic terrorism in the East African country with cultural ideas that call on men to be "tough, heterosexual, aggressive, unemotional and achieving."

Al-Shabaab is an Islamic extremist insurgency in East Africa. Its name means "the youth," and it has ties with fellow terror organization al-Qaeda. The group has a presence throughout much of East Africa. It flies the same black standard as ISIS but swears allegiance to al-Qaeda instead.

Al-Shabaab wants to overturn the U.N.-backed government in Somalia. There is some evidence the group does business with the infamous Somali pirates.

On October 14 last year, there was a destructive truck bombing in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu. The massive explosion left more than 500 dead and more than 300 injured. Somali officials felt it was likely the work of Al-Shabaab.

A report in 2014 by the BBC found that Al-Shabaab was recruiting young Kenyan men living in poverty, reaching out to them with cash and promises of wealth. One Kenyan woman who was interviewed said her husband left home about two years prior to joining Al-Shabaab.

"He had no means of making money here," she told the BBC. "The recruiters [for Al-Shabaab] offered him money."

According to Monday's report, the State Department's grant description observed, "In Kenya, boys and men are disproportionately recruited by al-Shabaab and more likely to be both operators and victims of terrorist acts."

Washington Free Beacon writer Elizabeth Harrington argued on Twitter Monday, "State Dept grant suggests problem with Islamic extremism is 'ideals of masculinity,' does not mention radical ideology."

The government grant's description noted that similar research has already happened in Kenya but was mostly focused on women's experiences rather than men's.

It stated, "To date, research and interventions on gender in Kenya have predominantly focused on the role of women and girls in violent extremism."

It continued, "However, men and boys are disproportionately recruited by and join terrorist groups and carry out terrorist operations. In Kenya, there currently exists no CVE [countering violent extremism] programming dedicated to the role of the gender of boys and men and vulnerability to violent extremism."

The State Department also stated, "Funds will support male-to-male dialogue and training on issues of gender and encourage stronger social and familial support structures."

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