Women and Recruitment in the Al-Shabaab Network: Stories of Women being recruited by Women Recruiters in the Coastal Region of Kenya

Fathima A. Badurdeen


The presence of women and girls within the Al-Shabaab is viewed as a security threat within the changing dynamics of recruitment in Kenya. Recruitment of women and girls may be attributed to the needs of the Al-Shabaab terrorist organization where they have specificities on recruiting them in their prominent roles in the Al-Shabaab camps and their missions. This article investigates the recruitment process of women into the Al-Shabaab from the Coastal Region of Kenya. Specifically, the article probes the ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘who’ of the recruitment process for the Al-Shabaab, discussing the ‘recruited’ and the ‘recruiter’ in the recruitment process. Utilizing biographic narratives and an integrated framework – rational choice theory and victimhood approach, the article explores the process of involuntary recruitment of women and girls by the Al-Shabaab using women recruiters. The findings draw on in-depth interviews with women identified as returnees from Al-Shabaab, and thirty-seven key informants on understanding the characteristics of women recruiters and the motivations of women and girls being recruited, in the involuntary nature of the Al-Shabaab’s recruitment process to provide essential insight to help counter women and girl’s recruitment. The findings reveal that women and girls play a prominent role as recruiters in the Al-Shabaab network. As recruiters they remain key contact personnel in recruiting women and girls for the Al-Shabaab utilizing deceptive recruitment strategies where they play a role as confidant, logistic support and planning within a human trafficking phenomenon.


Keywords: Women and recruitment, radicalization, involuntary recruitment, AlShabaab, Coastal Region of Kenya


Fathima A. Badurdeen

Lecturer, Technical University of Mombasa, E-mail: fazmiya@tum.ac.ke

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