Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab



. MENA faces a stark gender gap not only in employment, earnings, and disaggregated data collection (where there is a lack of knowledge on men and women's attitudes and views on gender equality), but also with respect to mobility, digital use and affordable access, and acquisition of soft skills such as decision making and leadership.

Persistent gender gaps and limited access to economic opportunities for women have had serious macroeconomic and fiscal consequences in MENA countries. This is why it is critical to close the gender gaps in order to boost growth across the region. Otherwise, as the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report suggests, it will take an estimated 157 years for MENA to close the gender gap and achieve gender parity.

Given the limited research on how to effectively address the gender gap in the region, rigorous evidence-based policy interventions are needed to find scalable solutions to


The work of the MNAGIL is motivated by empowering MENA’s women as a powerful tool for development in the region. The goal is to generate rigorous evidence on what (policy/intervention) works to close the gender gap and to help policymakers and development practitioners to rigorously tackle gender-related constraints. The Lab designs, launches, and oversees Impact evaluation research to create knowledge and innovative interventions to which policies can effectively work for closing gender gaps in the region. As part of the ongoing work, the MNAGIL also conducts impact evaluation workshops and other capacity building activities so that researchers and practitioners can contribute to and better interpret the knowle:

  • Policymakers in MENA do not use research and evidence-based practice to design policies
  • Academics do not know how to engage with policy makers

The World Bank’s new Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL) is intended to bridge this divide.

. The hub conducts impact evaluations, using randomized control trials, to understand what works, what does not work, why, and how to empower women in MENA on topics that relate to the goal of increasing female labor force participation, with a special focus on the barriers to increased participation, including weak aggregate demand, low demand for STEM-college-educated female, geographic gaps in participation nationally and across the region, health, education and training, and fragility and conflict.

The MNAGIL will also partner with regional policymakers and global practitioners to continuously improve policy interventions to eliminate the many gender disparities in the region, especially in the context of conflict among refugees and displaced women.



  • Advance women’s workforce development: To strengthen vocational and digital-related training for women to increase mobility and occupational choices. A low level of female labor force participation signals a strong need for investment in women’s education and skills, health, and nutrition. In this vein, 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 financial capital: To empower women by facilitating their access to finance, banking, credit, and digital payments. 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 need and the financing they receive. There is also a significant gender gap in account ownership in MENA. Disaggregated gender data, particularly on mobility patterns in the MENA region, are somewhat scarce and even more so concerning women’s transportation behaviors. 
  • Agency and voice: To acknowledge and enforce equal opportunity laws and regulations, making sure they work for women and revamp cultural barriers that prevent women from participating in the economy. According to a recent World Bank study, in more than half of the countries in MENA, women are prohibited from working in specific industries. Furthermore, in 65% of the countries in the region, working outside of the house is perceived to be inappropriate and immoral for women. In many more countries, women are unable to inherit wealth and land as men do or open a formal bank account without permission from a male relative. 

Country coverage 

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


Evidence-based approach: MNAGIL work focuses on generating evidence on what works and how to close gender gaps in the region to help achieve better development outcomes. MNAGIL conducts rigorous impact evaluations of gender-informed policies and programs, providing both technical support and funding for impact evaluation design, implementation, supervision, and analysis. For approved projects, MNAGIL may also provide innovation grants, which fund the implementation of additional, innovative solutions to be tested through rigorous evaluation. MNAGIL also funds qualitative deep-dive analysis for programs/projects that will be rigorously evaluated in order to improve project design before evaluation or to better understand the evaluation’s quantitative results. Finally, MNAGIL conducts inferential research to further understand gender-related trends in the region and to answer policy-relevant questions where possible using existing data.

Technical support: In addition to providing technical support for the design, implementation, and analysis of rigorous impact evaluations and other knowledge generating activities, MNAGIL provides technical support to integrate lessons into project and policy design. On the one hand, MNAGIL shares evidence of gender-effective policies and programs in other countries with project teams and policymakers. MNAGIL also builds the capacity of operational teams and local stakeholders for evaluation methods and for using results to inform policy through workshops and through collaboration on impact evaluations and other analytical work.


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. The funding is supported through the World Bank Group's Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE).

Last Updated: Sep 12, 2019

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 at lmottaghi@worldbank.org





Last Updated: Sep 12, 2019


Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL)

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Lili Mottaghi
Program Lead | Senior Economist
MENA Chief Economist Office
MNA Gender Innovation Lab (MNAGIL)