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How Does Islamist Local Governance Affect the Lives of Women? A Comparative Study of Two Cairo Neighborhoods

The UCLA Department of Political Science and CMED present a lecture by Professor Lisa Blaydes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

 How do women fare under Islamic rule? While some scholarly work suggests that Islamists are highly effective at providing the type of social services that benefit women most, other studies contend that Islamic groups and parties support “pro-male" policies and cultural interventions that disadvantage the health and well-being of women. In order to adjudicate between these contrasting views, I compare two slum neighborhoods in Greater Cairo that are similar on a number of important dimensions – size, socio-economic status, proximity to the city center, historical levels of Islamist activity – but in one, the militant Islamist group al-Gama’a al-Islamiya came to dominate local politics while in the other, local strongmen ruled the streets in the absence of a strong state presence. The former came under control of Islamists for largely idiosyncratic – and, I will argue, exogenous – reasons. Then using an original dataset of retrospective health histories for 600 women in each of these two neighborhoods, I find that women subject to the Islamist “treatment" effect enjoyed higher levels of prenatal care, lower fertility rates and fewer home births than a statistically matched set of women in the comparable neighborhood. At the same time, women in the treatment area were no more likely than women in the control area to be subject to negative cultural intervention that might manifest in more school drop-outs, early marriage, or higher rates of female circumcision. For Coptic Christian women living in the treated area, however, Islamist local governance created an environment of sectarian tension and violence that had adverse consequences.

Sponsor(s): Center for Middle East Development, Political Science

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