Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI)

According to the World Economic Forum 2023 Global Gender Gap Report, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains the furthest away from gender parity compared to other regions, with a 62.6% parity score, representing a 0.9 percentage-point decline in parity since 2022. Women in the MENA region face serious barriers including institutional, legal and cultural impediments, and slow progress on gender equality across multiple indicators. Despite these circumstances, significant reforms have led to women’s increased labor force participation, educational attainment, and economic and political opportunities. The MENA region is also home to trailblazing women pioneers who are disrupting the status quo by excelling in practically every field.

Directed by the award-winning author and historian Dr. Nina Ansary, the WLI promotes a greater and more nuanced understanding of women’s rights issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by fostering an open, inclusive dialogue between scholars, activists, thought leaders, business leaders, and policy practitioners. 

The Initiative was launched in March 2022 Women’s History Month.

Dr. Nina Ansary

Dr. Nina Ansary

Dr. Nina Ansary is an award-winning Iranian-American author, historian and women’s rights advocate. She is a UN Women Global Champion for Innovation, director of the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum Women’s Leadership Initiative, and former visiting fellow at the London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security.

Her best-selling books Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran and Anonymous Is a Woman: A Global Chronicle of Gender Inequality garnered numerous awards – including the International Book Award in “Women’s Issues” and the Benjamin Franklin Book Award in “History” and “Interior Design.”

Nina is the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award, and the Barnard College, Columbia University Trailblazer Award.

She has appeared on CNN International, Fox News, Larry King, the Today Show, the BBC, Sky News and been featured in a variety of publications, including Newsweek, Maria Shriver’s The Sunday Paper, The Los Angeles Times, The UK Daily Telegraph, Teen Vogue and the Yale Journal of International Affairs. She has written for Time, HuffPost and The Daily Beast and presented her work at multilateral conferences, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the United States Senate Human Rights Caucus, Girl Up Leadership Summit, the London School of Economics, and at Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities.

Nina was born in Tehran and moved with her family to the United States after the 1979 Revolution in Iran. She grew up in New York City and received her Master of Arts in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and PhD in History from Columbia University. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Iranian American Women Foundation and the Board of Advisors of the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum.

X/Twitter (@drninaansary) | Instagram (@ninaansary) | Facebook (facebook.com/ninaansary). Learn more at ninaansary.com

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