Podcasts & Webinars

Webinar Invitation: Al-Shabaab’s Gendered Economy — 29 June 2021

The GARVE Network would like to invite you to a Webinar on the role that women play in Al-Shabaab’s economic endeavors, which will be held on 29 June 2021 from 2pm – 4.00pm (EAT). 

Al-Shabaab has an interesting relationship with women, most notably when it comes to its economy. The conservative Islamist group holds deeply patriarchal views as to women’s roles in society. Believing that a woman’s place is at home, the group formally prohibits women from working or engaging in business – behavior they consider ‘un-Islamic’. Women are subject to a strict dress code, they are prohibited from leaving their homes without a male escort and they cannot loiter outside, limiting their involvement in the public sphere.

As such it is surprising that despite its approach to gender, women form a key part of al-Shabaab’s war economy. Despite its formal ban on women working, research reveals that women are actively involved in al-Shabaab’s financial concerns; running businesses on behalf of the group; moving goods over the borders between al-Shabaab and government territory; and playing a leading role in the group’s fundraising operations. The roles that women play are critical to the group’s survival, helping al-Shabaab to fund – and therefore to sustain – its insurgency.

During this meeting, Dr Orly Stern will present the findings from her research, Al-Shabaab’s Gendered Economy. Her research examines the apparent contradiction between the group’s ideological principles and its use of women. It also assesses the ways in which the group treats different groupings of women, questioning what this tells about al-Shabaab’s ideology and operations. 

Work on Somalia’s war economy to date has been gender-blind; unseeing of the roles that are played by women. Given how crucial al-Shabaab’s financial endeavors are to its survival, if women are playing a key role, it is vital that this be better understood. 

Proposed agenda:

  1. Introduction
  2. Presentation from Dr Orly
  3. Q&A and plenary discussion

Please register here in order to receive the Zoom call-in details.


Dr Orly Stern is a researcher, consultant and lawyer, focusing on armed conflict, gender, violent extremism and law. Orly has worked and researched in countries including Somalia, Iraq, northern Nigeria, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Jordan, Uganda and South Africa. She had consulted for various international organizations, research institutions and NGOs, and has published extensively in her field.

She holds a PhD in international humanitarian law from the London School of Economics, and a Masters in international human rights law from Harvard Law School. She is currently a visiting fellow of practice with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University. She has held a senior fellowship with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and has taught international criminal law at the University of Cape Town. Her book, ‘Gender, Conflict and International Humanitarian Law: A Critique of the Principle of Distinction’, was awarded the International Committee of the Red Cross’ inaugural prize for best published work on international humanitarian law in Africa.

Links to other papers written by Dr Orly on women and al-Shabaab:
Married in the Shadows: The Wives of al-Shabaab

The Invisible Women of al-Shabaab