Women Seek Bigger Role in Economic, Social Development

Women Seek Bigger Role in Economic, Social DevelopmentWomen Seek Bigger Role in Economic, Social Development

The newly-formed “women’s faction” in the new Majlis seeks to pursue and follow up on the proposals and bills related to women’s issues that were rejected by the previous legislatures, says lawmaker Farideh Qobad.

“In spite of a large number of women entrepreneurs, breadwinners, and competent women in the country, they have not received their fair managerial share in various sectors,” Qobad told a weekend conference on “Opportunities and Challenges Facing Women in the 10th Parliament”.

The event was organized and hosted by the Progressive Muslim Women’s Society, an association of women activists established in 2005.

Noting that under such circumstances, the nation cannot be expected to improve and make sustainable development, she said, “Countries such as South Korea were dealing with a similar situation, but it managed to improve its global standing by harnessing the true potential of women.”

She also reiterated that the faction’s priority is to address violence against women and gender imbalances, ILNA reported.

Fatemeh Saeedi, another MP, said more consideration and planning “is needed to select the head of the women’s faction given its sensitivity and importance.”

Underlining that the women’s faction is not separate from Majlis commissions, former lawmaker Elaheh Kolayi said, “Addressing women’s issues is an important indicator of upholding human rights, and democracy.”

She stressed that all members must refrain from any form of individualism and self-orientation, since the Majlis is the voice of the entire 80-million population.

Kolayi also called for an efficient communication system between female MPs and women activists that ensures uninterrupted contact to speed up transfer of information and experience.

Fatemeh Rakeie, head of the society, said the women’s faction must be active and dynamic, and keep people up-to-date on their agenda.

The 290-member chamber convened on May 28 and has 17 women MPs.

Several women lawmakers sit on several Majlis commissions, namely economic and agricultural, social, industries and mines, energy, education, national security and foreign policy, councils and internal affairs, and cultural.

This is the first time that female MPs are present in the Majlis economic commissions.

Soheila Jelodarzadeh, one of the well-known faces in the new legislature, says the new and larger presence of women can pave the way for their greater economic participation, hoping that “women’s role in and contribution to national development will be taken more seriously.”

According to official data by the Statistical Center of Iran, women make up only 13% of the entire specialized workforce (37.6%). The unemployment rate is 19.7% for women, nearly twice the figure for men (10.25%). Meanwhile, 75% of women are in jobs unrelated to their field of study.

Of the total female workforce, 4% are in the executive managerial posts, 10% in sales, 20% in the industrial sector, 50% are experts in various fields including teaching, 11% are office clerks or tellers, and 5% are active in other sectors, says a report by the Iran Entrepreneurship Association.

  Private Sector

Official figures also show 72% of working women in Iran are employed by private companies, but there are disproportionately fewer of them at the executive level despite making up more than half of university students.

Access to quality jobs may be better for women in Iran than in the Persian Gulf Arab states, yet women account for about 18% of the labor force, barely higher than Saudi Arabia and below Pakistan, according to statistics from the World Bank, said in a report last year.

In Turkey, a non-Arab Muslim country also with a population of about 80 million people and demographic similarities with Iran, the figure is above 30%.

But when it comes to finance, a growing number of women are increasingly filling the ranks of their companies, top bankers say.

Majid Zamani, chief executive officer of Kardan Investment Bank, which oversees about $300 million invested in Iran and is licensed and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Organization, said that across Iran’s nine investment banks, the presence of women is high compared to other industries and in some cases even outnumbers men.

This is definitely the case in the capital markets in Iran, he says.