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Programmes aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have emerged especially over the last decade. Some programmes are designed to build community resilience, while others seek to prevent young people from joining violent extremist organisations or support former violent extremists’ reintegration into society.
Mentoring has become an increasingly common approach in such programmes. Yet, what is understood by ‘mentoring’ varies across them, raising questions such as: what constitutes mentoring? Who are part of the target group of such programmes and how are they selected? Based on which criteria should mentor and mentees be matched? And how long should target groups be provided with mentoring support? Additional questions relate to measuring change and evaluating the programmes’ success. These questions suggest that the management of mentorship-based approaches is challenging and entails persistent questions.
To investigate the experiences and lessons learned from various mentoring programmes in the field of P/CVE, RUSI in the Horn of Africa (RUSI HoA) organised a conference entitled ‘Lessons Learned from P/CVE Youth Mentorship’ which took place from 19–20 February 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The aim of the conference was to think through the many puzzles involved in mentoring within the framework of P/CVE and to share lessons learned from the application of the mentorship model in other programmes and settings.
RUSI HoA has, since 2016, undertaken the project STRIVE ll – Strengthening Resilience to Violent Extremism in Kenya. The ambition of the programme is to reduce radicalisation, recruitment and support for violent extremism. Mentoring is one of the key components in the programme which aims to offer peer-to-peer support to youth at risk of recruitment to violent extremist groups.
The programme cooperates with stakeholders from local communities in reducing violent extremism by, among other approaches, increasing their knowledge about the various reasons behind engagement in violent and/or extremist groups. The target groups of the programme are youth from less privileged communities in Kenya who are engaged as mentors and mentees, followed by local stakeholders.
Various aspects of mentoring within the field of P/CVE were discussed during the conference. In the first two sessions, two panels moderated by Martine Zeuthen (RUSI HoA) focused on ‘Lessons Learned from P/CVE Youth Mentorship in East Africa and Beyond’, in which Saida Abdi (Boston Children’s Hospital Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center, US), Metin Cakmak (Crime Prevention, Denmark), Tina Wilchen Christensen (RUSI HoA), Hadija Suleiman (RUSI HoA) and Sheikh Yusuf Nasur Abu Hamza (USAID in Kenya) presented insights from P/CVE programmes based on mentoring.
In the third session, ‘Communication in Mentorship and the Importance of Self-Expression’, moderated by Fiona Napier (Wasafiri Consulting), Matt Freear (RUSI HoA), Stephen Rukwaro (mentor, STRIVE II), Fatuma Hussein (mentor, STRIVE II), John-Allan Namu (co-founder, Africa Uncensored) and Ng’ang’a Mbugua (editor, Business Daily, Kenya) investigated the importance of strengthening the voice of youth in the media as a means to prevent recruitment to violent extremist groups. The fourth session, ‘Lessons Learned on Measuring Progress’, moderated by Matthieu Dillais (Altai Consulting), Kathleen White (Aktis Strategy), Juuso Miettunen (Forcier Consulting), Gayatri Sahgal (RUSI HoA) and Timothy Kimaiyo (RUSI HoA), presented methods for monitoring and evaluating P/CVE programmes.
The conference was chaired by Martine Zeuthen, team leader of RUSI’s STRIVE II programme and was opened by Hanina Ben Bernou (EU delegation to Kenya).
In discussing these themes, several recommendations emerged for strengthening mentorship within programmes aimed at P/CVE. While the first parts of this report present a summary of the conference presentations, the second part provides recommendations about mentoring.
BANNER IMAGE: A group of friends in Nairobi, Kenya. Courtesy of Desmond Gatimu/Pexels