Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL)




The Lab partners with the policymakers in the region to promote the use of evidence and learning for policy design, implementation, and reform. The Lab also engages with the operational teams at the World Bank to contribute to the design and implementation of innovative approaches that effectively target constraints to gender equality.  

Our Focus Areas

 While MENA is close to gender parity in education and health outcomes, gaps still exist in employment, earnings, financial and property ownership,  mobility, digital use and affordable access, and acquisition of soft skills such as decision making and leadership. Equally important is the dearth of disaggregated gender data, particularly on mobility patterns, women's business entry, finances, jobs, digital, and ownership.  Jobs, assets, and decision making are key levers of change for women and fundamental drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction in the region.

MNAGIL has established three strategic pillars, the "3 As", to support the World Bank’s projects, government-wide programs, and partnerships to increase women’s economic opportunities in the MENA region. The Lab focuses on four thematic areas: Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Development, Youth Employment, Property Rights, and Social Norms.


Advance female workforce development; jobs, skills, and entrepreneurship: Strengthen vocational and digital-related training for women to increase mobility and occupational choices. A low female labor force participation in MENA signals a strong need for investment in women’s education and skills, health, and nutrition. It is crucial to promote fields relating to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and quantitative skills for girls and women, leverage technology and best practices to boost productivity, and support women in entry-level jobs.  

Accelerate access to finance, property ownership, and gender disaggregated data: Owning property (tools, livestock, land, jewelry), controlling finances (having personal bank account), and making an independent decision about resource use are critical for empowering women in MENA. A recent study by IFC notes that the MENA region has the second-highest female micro-enterprise financing gap (29%), a US$16 billion gap between the credit female entrepreneurs in MENA needs and the financing they receive. There is also a significant gender gap in account and property ownership in MENA. 

Agency and enhancing effective representation, participation, and decision making of women, enforcing equal opportunity laws and regulations, and revamping cultural and social norms barriers that prevent women from participating in the economy, and engaging men, and boys. According to a recent World Bank study, in more than half of the countries in MENA, women are prohibited from working in specific industries and working outside of the house is perceived to be inappropriate for women. Furthermore, women cannot inherit wealth and land as men do or open a formal bank account without permission from a male relative. 

Our Services

The MNAGIL designs, launches, and oversees rigorous Impact evaluation research [primarily using randomized controlled trials (RCTs)] to generate knowledge and innovative interventions to which policies can effectively work for closing gender gaps in the region.  MNAGIL also conducts inferential and research uptake, provides technical support, organizes workshops and learning events for stakeholders and funds qualitative deep-dive analysis to improve project design and implementation. Finally, MNAGIL partners with regional policy makers and development practitioners to bridge the gap between research and policy with the goal of continuously improving policy interventions to eliminate the many gender gaps in the region, especially in the context of conflict among refugees and displaced women.

The findings of the impact evaluations are published as policy briefs, research working papers, and other analytical reports with a strong emphasis on using the results for policy advice, policy dialogue, and policy implementations.

Our Focus Countries 

MNAGIL’s work focuses on Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, West Bank & Gaza, Yemen, and countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. 

Our Partners

The MNAGIL works in partnership with units across the World Bank, aid agencies and donors, governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector firms, and academic researchers. MNAGIL is part of the Federation of Gender Innovation Labs at the World Bank Group.

The funding is supported through the World Bank Group's Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE), a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank to advance gender equality and women's empowerment through experimentation and knowledge creation to help governments and the private sector focus policy and programs on scalable solutions with sustainable outcomes. The UFGE is supported with generous contributions from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



Egypt: (with J-PAL): "Assessing the Impact of Providing Access to Nurseries and employment services on Female Labor Force Participation" 

The randomized controlled trials evaluate the impact of interventions of improved access to and affordability of nurseries on female labor force participation (FLFP) and cross randomize connecting mothers with work opportunities to assess the labor demand on FLFP among the most vulnerable women in Egypt. Research & Policy Brief  Work in progress

Egypt: "Using Digital Technology to Expand Markets for Female Entrepreneurs" 

A randomized controlled trial tests the demand side interventions for firm growth using a pay-for-results treatment arm to encourage technology adoption for 2550 small, informal, and formal firms in clothing, prepared food, and electronics industries, with a significant share of women-led businesses, to overcome market frictions in Egypt. Work in progress

Tunisia: "Enhancing Female Entrepreneurship through Public Works Program and Capital Injections Intervention"

The evaluation tests the impact of a capital injection intervention targeting women entrepreneurs graduating from Labor Intensive Public Works to alleviate capital and credit constraints in Jendouba, one of the most underserved regions of rural Tunisia. Research Policy Report 

Yemen: "Evaluating the Impact of SMEPS Training and Livestock Interventions on Women's Entrepreneurship" 

The cluster-randomized control trials with two treatment arms measure the impact of interventions on income and livestock productivity of 1,100 women livestock breeders across 70 villages in Yemen whose businesses have been negatively affected by the ongoing conflict. Work in progress

CATI High-frequency Phone Survey: Assessing the Socioeconomic Gendered Impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and Perceptions in 10 MENA countries (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and West Bank & Gaza)

The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in MENA is expected to be severe on women and girls. MNAGIL, in partnership with the World Values Survey, is conducting a rapid phone survey covering 10 MENA countries. The methodology will use the computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) for data collection for at least 95 indicators and covers series of topics:

  •  Knowledge of COVID-19 and mitigation measures,
  • ·Perceptions including trust in government responses,
  • Vaccine preparation and approval,
  • Access to routine healthcare as public health systems are increasingly under stress,
  • Access to educational activities during school closures,
  • Employment dynamics,
  • Household income and livelihood, income loss and,
  • Coping strategies and external assistance

Work in progress

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2021

The MNAGIL organizes open calls for expressions of interest (EOI) for technical and financial support of rigorous impact evaluations. Interested teams must submit a completed EOI form and follow the submission instructions on the form before the deadline. The MNAGIL Steering Committee decides which proposals to support based on eligibility criteria, funding availability, and the alignment of the proposal with MNAGIL’s key focus areas. Those teams whose funding is approved collaborate with the MNAGIL team on the development of the impact evaluation (IE) concept note, establishment of the evaluation team, and other IE implementation activities.

The MNAGIL announced its first call for EOIs in May 2019 (see our first call here) and future calls for EOIs will be announced here. While funding opportunities for ongoing activities are limited, please contact us if you would like to learn about opportunities to receive technical support or to explore funding possibilities.

For more information on MNAGIL, please contact Lili Mottaghi, Senior Economist (lmottaghi@worldbank.org)



MNA Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL)

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Lili Mottaghi
Senior Economist and Program Leader
MNA Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL)
1818 H Street NW Washington, DC 20433 USA

Gender Equality Matters for Higher Growth in MENA (PPT)