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Sixth Plan Highlights Special Role of Women
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Sixth Plan Highlights Special Role of Women

Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi says the government “is not in favor of pretentious policies to segregate men and women at the workplace and in universities.” Emphasizing that the current administration is inclined towards ‘’institutionalizing modesty and hijab’’ among women, she also criticized some institutions “who receive government funds to promote the Islamic dress code but are actually doing more harm than good,” Persian newspaper Shargh reported.  
The modern world has realized that gender segregation “is inefficient, unjustifiable and unfair because the role of women in development and advancement of industry cannot be ignored,’’ she said highlighting the special role given to women in the Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (starting 2016). The legal rights of women and their constructive roles should be observed without injustice or discrimination. At the time of drafting the 6th plan it was decided that all sections of the society should get their fair share, but many women’s rights activists said that “women’s full potentials are yet to be realized and they need to be given opportunities.”  
The government does not agree “with gender segregation in offices and universities on the pretext to make the workforce more healthy’’ she said, and added ‘’men and women in Iran have surely learned the differences of private and workplace interactions after 35 years of the Islamic Revolution.’’ Modesty and hijab is not just for girls “since many boys in society have been let loose.”  ‘’Excluding women from the workforce is not the answer; there is need for more cooperation between NGOs and the government, as well as more synergy in the government itself,” she maintained.
The cultural campaign should shift from ‘’coercion’’ to ‘’inspiration’’ from ‘’appearance’’ to ‘’reality’’ and from ‘’propaganda’’ to ‘’activism,’’ Molaverdi noted.
The government is only one of the bodies effective in promoting Islamic values in the dress code and ‘’to improve the present situation, everyone should join hands and tackle the problems with a realistic outlook.’’

 Women vs. Men
Asked why there is no such public office devoted to ‘’men’s affair,’’ Molaverdi said one of the 12 urgent issues for the global community according to a 1995 UN report is the empowerment of women. ‘’As long as the odds are stacked against Iranian women and conditions are unfair to them, the presidential women’s office will continue its work as it does now.’’
The official said ‘’maintaining a balance between life and work’’ is one of the primary missions of her office, adding ‘’working women who are struggling to juggle maternal and marital duties as well as tasks at the workplace should not be stuck at the crossroads; society needs women to work alongside men.’’

 Work-At-Home
About the increase in paid maternity leave which was introduced by the previous administration, Molaverdi said the former government had erroneous perceptions of the law which misled many to believe that such a plan was feasible. The relevant law states that the increase in maternity leave is only recommended if organizations can afford it, and since this meant a significant financial burden, it was not simply feasible. ‘’How is it possible to force government and private businesses to give their consent to 9-month maternity leave and then expect women to get promoted in their jobs’’? she asked.
The reduction in work hours for women is also on hold due to the upcoming parliamentary elections but the government has introduced certain privileges for married people and also parents with disabled children or kids under the age of seven in the proposed bill.
Elaborating on the general status of women in Iran, Molaverdi said the participation of women in political  affairs is merely 3% - while in Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and even Afghanistan the figure is 27%.Today only 9 seats in the Majlis out of 290 are occupied by women and when it comes to the gender gap, “Iran is the sixth country with the widest gap in the index.” Her office is working on ways to pave the way for more women to be represented in parliament.
She referred to the ‘’hidden role’’ of women in the economy and said more value should be given to stay-at-home women so their self-esteem will improve. ‘’Many women declaring themselves in the censuses as homemakers are not so - 12 million of the 19 million women who are considered homemakers are actually farmers.’’

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