Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

David S. Brown

Second Advisor

Susan E. Clarke

Third Advisor

Lorraine Bayard de Volo


The 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) renewed debate on proposed mechanisms to enhance women's political influence across the developing and developed world. Despite common perceptions that women's political opportunities are uniformly limited in the Arab world, considerable variation exists. This dissertation explores the incentives behind this unexpected variation through both cross- national statistical and case study analysis, relying on data gathered over two years of fieldwork and from 100 interviews across Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan. I demonstrate that international capital plays a key role in creating incentives to incorporate women and partially explains the different levels of women's political inclusion. Alongside the humanitarian reasons for promoting women's issues, there is a decidedly material interest for women's empowerment in countries that receive significant financial inputs through development projects conflating the status of women and democratization. Consequently, Arab politicians hope strategic gender-related political reforms translate into donor and investor confidence in other indicators of development. To evaluate my argument, I consider the impact of multiple types of foreign capital on three dimensions of women's political incorporation: the legislative, policy, and rights realms. The empirical data used covers 22 Arab League countries from the period of 1990 until 2009. My findings reveal robust relationships between women's political status and variables representing international economic influence. Subsequent case analysis elaborates on the importance of external funding in sustaining grass-roots women's movements instrumental in pushing for the most progressive policy outcomes for women in the region.