American Univesity of Beirut

 Identifying opportunities to improve the lived experience and health of working women in the MENA: from COVID to recovery


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a world outlier for low female labor force participation despite women's high educational attainment. Furthermore, the region also has one of the largest gender gaps in unemployment and low rates of investment in early childhood development. Scholars point to constraints to both the demand and supply of female labor, yet gendered experiences within the workplace are critical.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a direct shock that affected disproportionately women's work, with the region bearing the largest loss of female employment due to COVID-19 globally. In a region with the world's highest pre-pandemic gender disparities in unpaid care work, COVID-19 has shifted that burden further towards women. The consequences pose additional health costs to women who are under-researched.

To address the underlying issue, we will analyze existing surveys in selected low and middle-income countries of the region, conduct policy analysis as well as update and expand previous regional literature reviews we conducted to examine changes in female labor force participation and impacts on health and well-being, before, during and after COVID-19.

Our mixed methods primary research will focus on Lebanon to examine the education, health and early childhood development sectors where women predominate, and to explore the differential gendered experiences of workers' health and access to healthcare with an intersectional lens. The study is divided into four work-packages that address different objectives and include different research methodologies in order to meet the aim of the study.

We aim that our study findings would inform policy and practice initiatives, advocacy, multilateral organizations' and implementing partners' programs to retain women workers, promote early childhood development and reduce health losses.


Research Team

  • Jocelyn DeJong (PI, work-package 1 lead), Professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, FHS and Associate Provost, AUB
  • Serena Canaan (co-PI, work-package 2 co-lead), Assistant Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University (SFU)
  • Pamela Zhgeib (Decision-maker PI), Head of Mother and Child Health Unit at Ministry of Public Health
  • Nisreen Salti (Work-package 2 co-lead), Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, FAS, AUB
  • Stephen McCall (Work-package 3 lead), Assistant Professor of Practice and Acting Director of the Center for Research on Population & Health (CRPH), FHS, AUB
  • Ali Abboud (co-I), Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, FAS, AUB

·         Hala Ghattas​, Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina

·         Sasha Fahme (Work package 4 lead), Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine

·         Nadine Mezher, Regional Project Manager at OXFAM


  • Ghada Saad, PhD Student at Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, FHS, AUB
  • Rita Itani, Project Coordinator, Center for Research on Population & Health (CRPH), FHS, AUB
  • Mary Al Hoyeck, Research Assistant, Center for Research on Population & Health (CRPH), FHS, AUB


  • International Development Research Centre (IDRC)



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