Interview with H.E. Ms. Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, Vice President of Iran
As part of the project to 'build relationships between Iran and International Society,' launched in FY2016, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation held an international symposium about women's empowerment in May last year at the Iranian capital of Tehran. In a follow-up to the symposium, the SPF invited H.E. Ms. Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, to hold an Iranian women's conference, themed 'Women and Education as Economic Empowerment,' on February 14, 2017. The Iranian government is actively working on women's empowerment. As a leader of all Iranian women, H.E. Vice President Mowlaverdi is committed to protecting women's rights in the country. We interviewed the Vice President, who visited Japan for the first time, about progress in improving women's social status and other matters.
― What aspects of the status of Iranian women have been improved?
For 38 years since the Iranian Revolution (1979), Iranian women have had to go through various difficult journeys. While the environment concerning women has seen improvements in many aspects, there is still a long road lying ahead.
We divide the years since 1979 in decades. The first decade from 1979 was a peculiar time with the revolution, immediately followed by a war. It was a tough time both socially and economically. In those days, women constantly served men, including their fathers, brothers, husbands and children.
The second decade (from 1989 to 1999) was a period of reconstruction. The Iranian government was dubbed the 'construction state' because of its emphasis on national reconstruction. For women, it was also the time of a major turning point. Iran has drawn up and implemented a five-year development plan every five years. The third five-year plan, which fell on this decade, had a greater emphasis on the improvement of women's status compared to the previous two five-year plans. The Interior Ministry and various local governments set up a committee for improving women's status for the first time, while the Office of the President appointed the first-ever female adviser.
The third decade (1999 - 2009) was the age of reforms, when a female Vice President and female advisers began to increase their presence as key members of the Cabinet. By then, primary education for girls had spread to all corners of the country, thanks to the government's efforts since the revolution to encourage women to get involved in the revolution establishment, set up more schools with emphasis on women's education, and develop female educators. Women who received primary education during the first decade were advancing to tertiary education, dramatically increasing the ratio of women who chose to study at universities.
In the fourth decade (2009 - present), Iran is in a very good status compared to other countries in the region in terms of human resource development for welfare, healthcare and education. The Hassan Rouhani administration, formed in August 2013, set up the position of Vice President for Women and Family Affairs. There is even gender balance between female and male students, with the ratio of women moving on to tertiary education exceeding that of men.
However, issues and challenges remain when it comes to women's employment after completing university education and women's involvement in the nation's political landscape. This may be a shared challenge for all women around the world.
Iranian women have attained substantial knowledge and education over the last several decades, and become more wholesome and sound than many men. Yet, once they complete education, they find themselves without a suitable social status, financial strength or environment that allows them to take advantage of various opportunities.
― Looking back at past experiences, you must have faced various difficulties. Can you share your secret about how to overcome challenges?
I have gone through numerous difficulties and challenges. When I think about how I managed to ride over the difficulties I faced, I think I owe it to my family, relatives and neighbors for their strong support. I am thankful about my parents' passion for education. I have risen above difficulties and evolved into who I am now, thanks to the support of so many people, including my friends from school and university days.
― What is your view on Japanese women?
Different countries have different cultures and religions as well as the status and roles of women. I might be influenced by Japanese television shows such as dramas, but I have an impression that Japanese women are very industrious and patient. They do not seem to spare any effort to make their dream come true. They are great role models for Iranian women.
- H.E. Ms. Shahindokht Mowlaverdi
Vice President for Women and Family Affairs
- After attaining a masters' degree in international law from a university in Iran, Ms. Mowlaverdi took advantage of her expertise in women's rights to work as a member of the Network of Women's NGOs in Iran, the Expediency Discernment Council and the expert conference on children's rights organized by the Iran's Women and Youth Committee. She then worked at the International Relations department of the Presidential Center for Women's Participation, before being appointed by President Rouhani as the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs in October 2013, and taking leadership in the country's drive to expand women's empowerment.
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