Empowerment of Women in NAM countries

There is a widely acceptable view that the overall development of a society will not take place, unless steps are taken towards empowerment of women. Empowerment of women entails the elimination of such factors that tend to perpetuate gender discrimination. Many prominent international organizations, including the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) have also contributed to the empowerment of women. NAM has been used as a multilateral forum where the issues pertaining to women’s right have been constantly discussed. Iran as a member state of NAM, and in consonance with the NAM ideology of empowering women, has also implemented a range of measures that seek to improve the position of women in the Iranian society.
Women empowerment in Iran has resulted in positive aspects on the social, economic, and political institutions in the country.  The Charter for Rights and Responsibilities of Women in the Islamic Republic of Iran states that women have the right to social security and economic facilities. They are entitled to governmental support in case of poverty, divorce, or disability.
The Iranian government has taken adequate steps to address the issue of poverty among women. Organizations such as EMDAD Committee and BONYAD SHAHID work towards welfare o women. BONYAD SHAHID supports 13% of women of who are directly responsible for running of their family affairs. The EMDAD Committee has medically insured 67% of the women who are entrusted with the responsibility of running their families.
The Iranian government has implemented a range of programmes to address issues pertaining to women’s health. Such measures aim at increasing the availability of medical care and services for women through developing health care in medical centre, supporting women’s fertility heath project, establishing premarital consulting centers, and increasing fertility care services.
Iranian women have greatly gained from the government’s education policies. In 2008, approximately 67% of women in Iran entered higher education. In fact, the presence of women in academic education has been rising and even the number of women accepted in academic education has become more than men. Besides, there has been a growth of women students in technical and engineering institutes in Iran. In the period 1997 -2002, the number of female students in state run technical colleges was twice, and in privately run technical institutions four times the number of male students.
Although the number of women in technical institutes of Iran outnumbers the men, there are relatively few female entrepreneurs in the country.  This is partly on account of cultural factors, and partly on account of lack of adequate finances. However, there have been efforts both by the public and private sector to promote women’s entrepreneurship. At the official level, the Women’s Employment Bureau at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security organizes entrepreneurship seminars, conferences, and workshop for women. Iran is also a prominent member of the Forum for businesswomen in Islamic countries. This forum is organized by the Islamic Chamber of Commerce along with the Islamic bank. The forum aims at promoting the culture of entrepreneurship among women by facilitating joint investments and collaboration, and technology transfer between technology suppliers and women entrepreneurs. Besides, institutes such as Alzahra University, and Khorshid Entrepreneurship School offer free training in entrepreneurship for women.
At the unofficial level, a number of Non Governmental Organizations have been established in Iran, which focus on promoting women entrepreneurship. These initiatives have been successful. Women are appointed to positions of decision making. An apt example is the appointment of Bita Roohi as the first women disaster manager in Iran, where she is in charge of disaster management and risk reduction for the city of Hamadan. In an interview, she stated that “women in many countries of the world have managed to identify their personal potentials and social responsibilities and shine in fulfillment of their assignments. To move on the right track for crisis management we must define our vision and mission and focus on the development of all employees’ potential and skills”.
In spite of all these measures, Iran is yet to accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women. Major international organizations, such as UNICEF, have constantly appealed to the Iranian government to be a party to the convention, but the authorities refuse to sign the convention citing that certain terms in the convention are incompatible with Sharia laws.
An overall assessment of the advancement of women in Iran shows that there has been a considerable advancement of women in recent years. However, there is one aspect which could be further addressed. This aspect pertains to the low participation of rural women in community or social development programmes. This is primarily because of a lack of formal education . Therefore, education of rural women must be a priority area to ensure that women empowerment in Iran takes place in a more effective manner.

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