This report analyses why women are associated with katiba Macina in Mali and Boko Haram in Niger, and their place and role in the recruitment, implantation and operation strategies of these violent extremist groups (VEGs). It is the first of two reports based on interviews with women and men who are or have been associated with these groups. The second report examines the implications of the study’s findings for policies and strategies for preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) in Mali and Niger and provides recommendations for stakeholders.