Recently, Omega Women's Leadership Center advisory council member Edit Schlaffer visited Zanzibar, the island off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, where debates around their constitution and a referendum concerning unity with the mainland are fueling cultural and political radicalization that has especially impacted women and families. Young Zanzibaris have taken to the streets in violent protest led by UAMSHO, meaning the Awakening. Tying together her experiences there with events around the world, Edit reflects on the realities of terrorism, the fate of the Nigerian school girls kidnapped, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and makes a call to action to the mothers and women of these regions while there is still an opportunity to prevent further radicalization.
"We can't let the violent extremist hijack the local narrative....This is the entry point to build up the resilience in mainstream society and encourage the strength to stand up and say: 'No, your agenda is not our agenda'....We need to look at the first line of defense which are the families and particularly the mothers. The home is the place where the excitement and frustrations of the adolescents can be dealt with and channeled. This is the only safe place where early warning signs can be addressed and responded to in an empathetic and constructive way....
[Women] need to bring their voice and concerns to the fore. They need to be active in their families and communities to build resilience and create alternatives to external influences, which might lure them into divisive directions. Given their unique perspective and position in the heart of their communities, their expertise needs to be recognized and used across all levels of society both formal and informal.
This is about humanity now, it is time to stand up and defend our fabric of life. If half of humanity is left behind and left out, it won't work."