Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab


MNAGIL is a new initiative to do things differently in the MENA region, aimed at closing the gender gap permanently. 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. Currently, women make up only 21% of the labor force and contribute only 18% to MENA’s overall GDP. The existing gender gap has extended to the rest of the economy, including the technology sector, impacting women’s access to and use of digital services. Furthermore, continued wars and conflicts in the region have widened the gender gap by exposing women and girls to gender-based violence (GBV), exploitation, poverty, and early or forced marriage.

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.

To boost growth in MENA, women are important. Bridging the gender gap will increase regional output, and put MENA on a higher, sustainable, and inclusive growth path in the long run. 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 design smart gender policies and evaluate how effectively these interventions can reduce gender gaps in the following 3 critical areas of (i) Jobs, (ii) Assets ownership, and (iii) Agency/voice to increase women’s economic opportunities in the region. The new evidence will deepen the capacity for gender-informed policymaking to help women in MENA reach their economic potentials.


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 knowledge-based results. Finally, the MNAGIL leverages evidence to promote the uptake of effective gender policies throughout the MENA region.

In closing the gender gap, MENA faces a real challenge:

  • 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 MNAGIL is an evidence-for-policy research hub that serves as a regional platform to generate rigorous evidence and create smart interventions to inform the design and implementation of gender-related policies and programs across the region. 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.

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.


The MNAGIL has established three strategic pillars, the "3 A's", to support the World Bank’s projects, government-wide programs, and partnerships to improve women’s economic opportunities in the MENA region.


  • 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. 


To meet the needs of a range of external and internal audiences, the MNAGIL will produce and publish the findings of impact evaluation research into a variety of knowledge products including policy briefs, research working papers, synthesis papers, and data sets. 

MNAGIL will provide technical support for the design, implementation, and analysis of rigorous impact evaluations and other knowledge-generating activities to integrate lessons into project and policy design. The aim is to share evidence of gender-effective policies and programs in other countries with project teams and policymakers. Finally, the MNAGIL 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).

Call for Expressions of Interest (EOI) is closed.

We have received an overwhelming number of applications.

The MNAGIL’s Steering Committee will evaluate all EOI applications in terms of technical rigor, operational and policy relevance, and budget appropriateness.

Teams of accepted EOIs will be contacted by July 31, 2019.

We'd like to thank you for your continued efforts in finding solutions to close the many gender gaps in the region.














Middle East and North Africa Gender Innovation Lab

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Lili Mottaghi
Senior Economist
MENA Chief Economist Office

Powerpoint Presentation