About the Women's Rights in the Middle East Program

The widening gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has prompted many Arab leaders to take substantive steps to increase female inclusion in the political, economic and societal spheres, and to improve policy outcomes for women across the region. However, very little is known about the effectiveness of measures intended to improve the status of women in the MENA. With this in mind, the Baker Institute Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program produces in-depth research and substantive policy recommendations to help practitioners and policymakers better predict how broader participation of women in the public and private domains might impact regional attitudes and promote societal progress. The program also hosts public lectures and academic conferences to disseminate research and to build bridges between scholars and policymakers in the MENA region and the United States.

The Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program focuses on three main areas of study: (1) The outcomes of women’s political representation in the MENA region, (2) Women post-Arab spring, and (3) The political economy of gender. We take an interdisciplinary and data-driven approach to our work, collaborating with partner organizations and regional scholars with a wide range of expertise. We aim not only to produce impactful and timely policy recommendations that address these areas of research but also to promote a better understanding of the intertwined factors shaping gender relations in the Arab world.

As part of our efforts to become a worldwide leader in the study of gender, the Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program hosts a biennial international conference that brings together leading scholars and policymakers to discuss the region’s most pressing policy-related concerns. The program is currently working on a multi-country project on governance and elections that aims to produce a political database for the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Through the use of this database, our researchers will produce country-specific reports on women’s engagement in these political bodies. In addition to our research initiatives, we work to provide students at Rice University with the opportunity to learn more about women’s issues, gender politics and the Middle East by teaching classes and through internship opportunities and research grants.


  • Gender and Politics in the Middle East
  • Advancing Women's Presence in the Economic and Social Realms
  • Promoting Women's Social Status Across the MENA region


The Kelly Day Endowment on the Status of Women and Human Rights in the Middle East and Ghada Irani Discretionary Fund

The Kelly Day Endowment on the Status of Women and Human Rights in the Middle East generously funds the activities of the WRME program. The endowment was established in 2007 to support scholarship and activities that promote a better understanding of the policies and practices that impact women and human rights in the Middle East. The Ghada Irani Fund complements the broader goals of the endowment and supports the program's national and international events and lecture series.