Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - MERGE - Migration and the Middle East

Impacts of Covid-19 on Gender inequalities in the Middle East

A MERGE discussion

Online Panel

Friday, February 11, 2022

15:00 -17:00 (CET)

Link to the panel:


The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the entire world unprecedentedly. The virus has hit without making distinctions of class, gender, ethnicity, or nationality. Yet, the collective crisis generated by the pandemic has exacerbated discrimination and exposed the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of society to greater risks. 

Increased gender inequalities are among the most alarming consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic globally. Although the effects of the pandemic on gender are still to be assessed, overall, the pandemic is having a regressive effect on gender equality. We have learnt that the Covid-19 has generated a ‘crisis of social reproduction’ (Mezzadri, 2020) that has affected women as the main caregivers all over the world. At the same time, in many countries, lockdowns and quarantines have worsened gender-based violence (e.g. Perez-Vincent et al, 2020; Usta et al., 2021).

In the Middle East, the Covid-19 pandemic, together with already-existing socioeconomic instabilities and protracted humanitarian crises (AbiRafeh, 2020), is deepening inequalities and uniquely affecting women and girls, LGBTQI+ populations, ethnic minorities, domestic workers, migrants and sex workers (Al-Ali, 2020; Al Abdeh and Patel, 2020). The situation is especially difficult for women and girls in conflict areas, who already experience displacement, early marriage, and sexual violence, as well as lack of work and education (Halawa, 2020).

Although studies on the effects of the Covid-19 on gender in the Middle East are growing, there is still an urgent need to investigate the gendered impact of the pandemic in the region, the gendered implications, the responses and various forms of reactions of gendered subjects, either individually or collective,  to these new forms of repressions and restrictions This panel seeks to fill some of these gaps by looking at the impact of the pandemic on gender inequality, the role of pre-existing inequalities in engendering specific vulnerabilities, the challenges faced by women and girls, LGBTQI+ populations, migrants and displaced populations, the effects of the pandemic on masculinities, gendered roles and gendered division of labor, as well as the impact of the pandemic on reproductive politics and gendered policies of national states.




Lina Abou Habib

Lina Abou-Habib is the Director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut. She is also the Gender Program Director of the MEPI-TLS program also at AUB. She is a member of the editorial committee of the Oxfam journal Gender and Development and serves as an advisor for the Urgent Action Fund. Lina is also the Chair of the Board of Haven for Artists. Lina is a feminist activist, researcher, and closeted writer. She has worked and led gender and women's rights organisations such as the Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action and the Women's Learning Partnership. She consulted for various international organisations notably the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam.



Dr. Maria Al Abdeh

is the executive director of Women Now For Development (WND). She joined Women Now for Development in November 2013 and since then she accompanied the growth of the organization to become the largest network of women  inside Syria and the neighboring countries. Maria has a PhD in Microbiology, but she also extend her interst and produced reserach in subject as Women and conflict, Islamic feminism and women rights in the MENA region. In March 2016 Maria received the Award of Feminine Success in France, and together with WND received in May 2016 the Award of ‘Delivering Lasting Change’ for commitment to justice and dignity from CARE international.

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Shima Vezvaei

is an independent journalist and researcher of media and communication. She holds a double Master’s degree in Global Communication and International Journalism from Freie University Berlin and St Petersburg State University. Upon her return to Iran, she is working with various civil society organizations on projects related to women community development, migration and refugee rights, and advocating against child labour. She has published as a journalist and independent researcher in journals and media outlets, including the European Journalism Observatory, Open Democracy, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Research.

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Dr. Yasemin Kalaylioglu

is working as Gender Programme Coordinator at UNFPA, Turkey and responsible for the activities regarding gender equality, empowerment of women and girls and prevention of gender-based violence. She completed her Master’s degree in Gender Studies and received her PhD in Sociology. She was accepted as a visiting academician/researcher to Stockholm University, Oxford University and University of California, Berkeley. After completing her PhD, Yasemin worked for UN Women, World Bank, UNDP as an expert. She authored the UN report “The economic and social impact of COVID-19 on women and men” in 2020. Before joining UNFPA, she worked at the Council of Europe as the project manager on gender equality.


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Organizers: Dr. Irene Tuzi, Dr. Firoozeh Farvardin

Moderator: Dr. Irene Tuzi