Skip to main content

Smart Take | Women in MENA: Challenges, Progress, and Opportunity

March 15, 20242:12

As the world marks Women’s History Month 2024, Faria Nasruddin, Program Associate for the Middle East Program, looks at the barriers that remain for women in the MENA region, but also at the progress that’s been made. She comments on cultural pressures and unequal inheritance laws, and future opportunities for women in climate action.


Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    The narrative that greater educational levels for women will translate into increased female labor force participation doesn't necessarily hold true in the MENA region, which is a phenomenon known as the MENA Paradox. MEP has done studies looking at why this is, figuring out what, if not education, is the barrier for women to enter the workforce and have found that it ranges from everything from cultural attitudes to inaccessible transportation, all the way to discriminatory laws on inheritance. 

    For example, in Egypt, Leslie Chang recently wrote a book looking at women who work in textile factories in Upper Egypt, which is the rural areas. And she found through the women that she was following, that a lot of them in this factory were in essence, joining and then quitting as soon as they were engaged to be married because of familial and cultural pressures. 

    Another example that I mentioned is the unequal inheritance laws, which we found in their report looking at Lebanon, Bahrain, and Tunisia specifically, and opportunities for women to engage in entrepreneurship and found that the unequal inheritance laws and asset ownership, property ownership, capital ownership was what was really preventing them from being able to kickstart any enterprises, even on a small scale on their own.

    In Jordan, as part of the government's Gender Responsive Action plan, they have amended the rapid bus transit system to cater more towards women's needs in specifically the urban areas in Amman. At the last COP 28, the Gender Responsive just Transition and Climate Action Plan was launched, which 68 countries signed onto. And it in essence promises support for women and female labor force participation in the transition to the clean energy sector. And it's predicted that this could produce up to 1.2 million jobs, which is a great, great opportunity and a sign of progress yet to come.




Faria Nasruddin

Program Associate, Middle East Program
Read More

Hosted By

Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform US foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more