When conflicts erupt in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, women are often affected first and worst. Child marriages, sexual slavery, domestic violence, and other attacks on women’s mobility, agency, and voices are the result of militarized masculinities. Understanding the distinct effects of violent conflict on women is critical for designing effective peacebuilding approaches and ensuring greater gender equality and protection for women and girls.



The Middle East and North Africa region is currently enduring instability, festering civil wars, and increasing poverty—all of which are causing massive displacement and migration with untold damage to lives, livelihoods, and physical infrastructure. In a region marked by poor governance records and inequality, the burden on the already huge gender gap is further impacted, particularly in fragile and conflict-ridden countries. 

To make any gains towards improving the situation for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict zones, the peacebuilding field, policymakers, NGOs, and the international community should come together to reflect on the lessons learned thus far when it comes to protecting and building the resilience of women, both during and after war. 

On March 11, USIP and American University in the Emirates hosted a virtual discussion that aimed to better understand gender dynamics in conflict by convening experts in the field and sharing the lessons learned from initiatives that build the resilience of women during war and throughout post-war recovery.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #MENAGenderDynamics.


Muthanna Abdul Razzaq, opening remarks
President and CEO, American University in the Emirates

Dr. Elie Abouaoun
Director, Middle East and North Africa Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace

Susan Aref
Director and Founder, Women Empowerment Organization (Iraq)

Mehrinaz El Awady
Director of Gender Justice, Population, and Inclusive Development, U.N. Economics and Social Commission for West Asia 

Kathleen Kuehnast
Director, Gender Policy and Strategy, U.S. Institute of Peace

Valentine M. Moghadam
Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Northeastern University

Nahla Yassine-Hamdan
Assistant Professor, College of Security and Global Studies, American University in the Emirates

Lina Beydounmoderator
Director of Development, American University of Cairo (AUC)

Related Publications

How the Taliban’s Hijab Decree Defies Islam

How the Taliban’s Hijab Decree Defies Islam

Thursday, May 12, 2022

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Mohammad Osman Tariq

The Taliban continued this week to roll back Afghan women’s rights by decreeing women must be fully covered from head to toe — including their faces — to appear in public. This follows decrees limiting women’s ability to work, women’s and girls’ access to education and even limiting their freedom of movement. Afghan women are rapidly facing the worst-case scenario many feared when the Taliban took over last summer. While the Taliban justify these moves as in accordance with Islam, they are, in fact, contradicting Islamic tradition and Afghan culture as the group looks to resurrect the full control they had over women and girls when they ruled in the 1990s.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderHuman RightsReligion

Protecting the Participation of Women Peacebuilders

Protecting the Participation of Women Peacebuilders

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

By: Negar Ashtari Abay, Ph.D.;  Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

Worsening violence against women is often a precursor to — and early outcome of — the rise in coups and authoritarianism that have made recent headlines. Not only does protecting women’s participation in public life and decision-making go hand-in-hand with democracy, but the former is actually a precondition for the latter. As we mark International Women’s Day in 2022, we would do well to remember that global efforts to prevent violent conflict and sustain peace are significantly undermined when women are deterred from access to participation and full leadership without fear of reprisals and violence. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderPeace Processes

Peaceful Masculinities: Religion and Psychosocial Support Amid Forced Displacement

Peaceful Masculinities: Religion and Psychosocial Support Amid Forced Displacement

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

By: Negar Ashtari Abay, Ph.D.;  Andrés Martínez;  Carolina Buendia Sarmiento

The number of people displaced globally due to conflict and violence nearly doubled between 2010 and 2020 from 41 million to 78.5 million, the highest number on record. Forced displacement, within and across national borders, exposes persons to stressful events and trauma, making psychosocial support a critical part of successful integration in new communities and societies. Those forcibly displaced include women and girls, men and boys, and gender and sexual minorities.

Type: Analysis and Commentary


View All Publications