The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is now the subject of global attention with the escalation of social unrest and the toppling of dictators. The present article summarises the key findings of regional research on active citizenship, gender and social entitlements in Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine, zooming in on the role of the state and non-government organisations in channelling basic services to women and men. The present article argues that women are often remote from the state, and have their rights mediated and decided by social institutions (including families and communities) that do not necessarily recognise women's "right to have rights". The result is the failure of public institutions to deliver and secure women's entitlements. Whether this situation will change after the current revolutions in MENA remains debatable.