How Does Islamist Local Governance Affect the Lives of Women?



How do women fare under rule by Islamists? Whereas some scholarly work suggests that Islamists are effective at providing the type of social services that benefit women most, other studies contend that Islamic groups support “pro-male” policies and cultural interventions that disadvantage the well-being of women. In order to adjudicate between these views, I compare two neighborhoods in Greater Cairo that are similar on a number of dimensions but in one, a militant Islamist group came to dominate local politics, whereas in the other, strongmen ruled the streets in the absence of a strong state presence. Using an original data set of retrospective health histories for women in each neighborhood, I find that women subject to governance by the Islamic group enjoyed better outcomes related to reproductive health than a statistically matched set of women in the comparable neighborhood while being no more likely to marry early or drop out of school.