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Women's Political Participation across the Arab region: Mapping of Existing and New Emerging Forces in the Region

In January 2013, the MEC received a major research grant from Oxfam to conduct research on ‘Women Political Participation across the Arab region: Mapping of existing and new emerging forces in the region’. Starting in February 2013 and running for 9 months, the project covers five countries: Egypt, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory, Tunisia and Yemen.

Research Framework

Women’s rights and political participation in post-revolutionary Arab countries has recently become a major issue of concern and investigation. This concern has been heightened by the victory of Islamist parties in recent parliamentary and presidential elections. Many recent publications discuss fears that women’s human rights and political participation will be threatened by the newly-emerging governments, particularly those ruled by Islamist parties.  However, this assumption is not yet supported by evidence showing that new policies and laws are more discriminatory than those adopted by secular-based regimes. This is despite the fact that radical Islamists within and outside government advocate for the Sharia’h and its codes to be the only source of constitutional change.

 The aim of this research is to provide Oxfam, its partners and its allies with a comprehensive understanding of how recent developments in the Arab region, particularly the Arab Spring events, have altered the political context through mapping the new landscape in the region and examining the influence of these changes on the concept and practice of women’s rights and participation in politics.

Through the study of five different countries, this research seeks to gain a deep understanding and analysis of the process of change and its complexity in each of them, reflecting on the actual experiences of different political players during the transition period, especially the performance of women’s organizations and coalitions in relation to national, regional and international agencies.

Research Focus

The research will examine the transition process in each country and the dynamics used by the different actors (government and non-government actors) for supporting or repressing the rights of women to inclusion in formal and informal politics.

The research will focus on four components:

  1. Mapping the context influencing women’s rights
  2. Mapping the key players influencing women’s political participation
  3. The dynamics of power and influences (analysis of stakeholders)
  4. Findings and recommendations for action

Research Team

The research is led by Dr Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, in partnership with a local organizations and researchers in each specific country.

One of the main strengths of the research team is that all its members are Arab women who have lived and worked as researchers in the targeted countries. They have also been involved in women’s activism and experienced the changes in the discourses of women’s movements in the different Arab countries.

Principal Investigator

Dr Aitemad Muhanna-Matar is a Research Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre. She joined the Centre in 2011 to pursue post-doctoral research on gender, religion and sustainable human development in the Gaza Strip. Originally from the Gaza Strip, Dr Muhanna has worked for the last twenty years on numerous policy-oriented research programmes and publications for Oxfam-UK, Sida, UNIFEM, UNDP and the World Bank. For several years, she conducted research and contributed to the Palestinian Human Development Report as part of the Arab Human Development Report.

Egypt Team

  • Local partner: Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University
  • Local researcher: Dr Amal Hamada

Yemen Team

  • Local partner: Etar Foundation for Social Development
  • Local researcher: Wameedh Shakir

oPt Team

  • Local partner: Filastiniyat
  • Local researcher: Maisa Shquir

Morocco Team

  • Local partner: Centre des Droits des Gens / Maroc
  • Local researcher: Dr Hanane Darhour

Tunisia Team

  • Local partner: Association Femmes Tunisiennes
  • Local researcher: Dr Aitemad Muhanna-Matar

Research Timeline

Phase 1: Inception Phase - February to mid-March

  • Review of secondary resources
  • Coordination with national partners
  • Setting up of fieldwork plans

Phase 2: Field Work and Country Reports - Mid-March to end June

  • Field Work: Mid-March to end April
  • Draft Country Reports: End April to end May
  • Country-specific Workshops: 1-3 June
  • Revise Country Reports: 4 June to mid-June
  • Finalize Country Reports: Mid-June to End June

Phase 3: Analysis and Final Report Writing – July to November

  • Meeting in London: 8-10 July
  • Analysis and Final Report Writing: 11 July to end November