State Department Spends $592,000 On Kenyan Gender Study

Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
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The U.S. State Department is set to launch a new study that suggests violent extremism in Kenya stems from “ideals of masculinity,” rather than radical ideology.

To that end, the State Department is spending close to $600,000 in taxpayer money exploring the subject of toxic masculinity in the conflict-stricken African nation, which is grappling with the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization, al-Shabaab.

The purpose of the study, which was initiated by the Bureau of Counterterrorism, is to see how “tough, heterosexual, aggressive, unemotional, and achieving” young men are susceptible joining Islamic extremist groups. The Bureau is looking for a non-profit organization to carry out the “Masculinity and Violent Extremism” study, reports Washington Free Beacon.

According to the proposal, the study will “determine existing knowledge and gaps on male gender and violent extremism as well as explore gender identity of boys and men in Kenya.”

“Gender is increasingly recognized as an essential aspect to understanding and countering violent extremism throughout the world,” reads the grant proposal. “To date, research and interventions on gender in Kenya have predominantly focused on the role of women and girls in violent extremism.”

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

The proposal suggests that Kenya’s “patriarchal” society of “tough, heterosexual” men are responsible for Islamist extremism in Kenya, adding that boys and men are “disproportionately recruited” by terrorist groups like al-Shabaab. It states that the country’s view of men is “uniformly patriarchal and highly prescriptive” despite being “diverse in its ethnic and cultural composition.”

“Kenyan males are expected to head the household as well as provide for, protect, and maintain the family,” the grant proposal continues, adding that young men are “exploited by violent extremist groups who appeal to these characteristics and offer the opportunity to fulfil [sic] these roles.”

The State Department states that research would involve fathers and community leaders to help “shape existing cultural narratives on masculinity, gender, and violent extremism” through “male-to-male dialogue on issues of gender and encourage stronger social and familial support structures.”

Responding to the Free Beacon article, a top Kenyan counter-terrorism official shot down the proposal to state that terrorism isn’t the a “crisis of masculinity.”

Furthermore, researchers at the Institute for Security Studies have found that Islamist radicalization in Africa stems from a complex, and wide-ranging set of issues — not toxic masculinity.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.