Interview with Morgan Snyder, recipient of the Hilldale Fellowship

She was awarded the Hilldale Fellowship for her thesis on women’s economic empowerment in Israel.

Could you summarize what your thesis is about?

The Middle East and North Africa currently have low rates of female economic participation. Research has demonstrated that microfinance initiatives may be a solution to improving women’s positions economically. My thesis explores the effect of microfinance on women’s economic empowerment by analyzing a leading organization providing microfinance services to women in Israel–the SAWA organization. I interviewed SAWA’s national staff, field officers, internal evaluations, literature, and their Management Information System. I found that microfinance plays a role in elevating women’s statuses, contributing to economic empowerment. My research suggests that microfinance positively impacts marginalized women. It also sets forth several strategies that may make microfinance organizations more effective.

Why did you choose this particular topic?

I have always been passionate about women’s rights and equality and this was a great way to explore my interest further.

How did you become interested in the Middle East?

I took Professor Marwa Shalaby’s Honors class “Politics of Gender and Women’s Rights in the Middle East”. She was such a great teacher and has since become an amazing mentor. She greatly increased my interest in the Middle East, especially regarding women’s rights and equality.

What was the most challenging aspect of your research? 

Figuring out how to do the interviews. Between applying for IRB approval, composing interview questions, scheduling and conducting the interviews, there were a lot of moving parts.

What are your plans for the future? 

I am planning to move to Washington D.C. after graduation in May. I am hoping to attend law school in a few years and work in politics and/or government.