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Molaverdi Navigates the  Labyrinth of Women’s Issues
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Molaverdi Navigates the Labyrinth of Women’s Issues

The Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs has proposed a bill to revise a number of civil and criminal laws concerning women. It will be introduced in the Majlis by the end of August.
“Several of the laws do not seem to be compatible with the modern world, such as the marriage and divorce laws, children’s rights, the Islamic Penal Code, Family Protection Law, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Code of Civil Procedure,” said Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi.
In an interview with the Financial Tribune she explicated how her office has helped improve women’s situation and the status of families during the past three years, supported NGOs despite the budget constraints, empowered women breadwinners, and dealt with a variety of challenges.
What the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs has achieved over the past three years must be assessed and evaluated within the framework of the mission that similar authorities have across the world, Molaverdi stressed.
“Our focus now is on getting the Majlis to review our bills by the end of the government’s tenure in 2017 so that we can lay the proper tracks for the proposals to materialize in the upcoming five-year economic, social and cultural  development plan (2016-2021),” she said.  The plan is in the final evaluation phase in the legislature.
Almost 70% of the targets set by the earlier five-year development plans were never met, and that is “due to idealism and generalizations,” the vice president rued.
“That is why we have set precise indicators for each of our goals, because without particular indices no progress can be evaluated, measured or reassessed. We ultimately aim to move toward gender equality in all spheres from the job market to the institution of the family to social participation.”
“As the nodal authority on women and family affairs, we are in charge of mainstreaming gender within the macro policies of the nation, rather than performing as an executive body.”
One of the major achievements of her administration was surveying the existing deficiencies in areas relating to women and families, and directing the focus of other state bodies to such issues.
Basically, the vice presidency has taken steps toward a larger, more effective, network cooperation among all relevant bodies. However, due to the sensitive nature of the subject, most proposals and bills take months, even years, to deliver.
“We have performed well on the memoranda of understanding that we signed with executive bodies in 14 different areas aimed at empowering women and increasing their participation in society.”

  Support for NGOs
“The vice presidency has always been supportive of non-governmental organizations, through whatever jurisdictional and other means at our disposal,” Molaverdi told the Tribune.
This fiscal year’s budget of 157 billion rials ($4.5 million), meager as it was, was reduced by 30 billion rials ($860,000) in the final days of the previous parliament.
“Out of almost 550 projects proposed to us by the relevant NGOs, nearly 50% have been approved and supported by us, despite our budgetary constraints.”
Community-based organizations were also invited to take part in regional conferences that aimed to alleviate the status of women. They have been empowered by their participation in peripheral workshops on sustainable development and proficient networking.
The NGOs were of great help in collection and classifying information for compilation of the atlas as provincial observatories.
“We are currently planning a major conference in the second half of the current Iranian year (began March 20) to be attended by President Hassan Rouhani, which will bring together NGOs from across the country to discuss and put the government’s community-based agenda into practice,” the vice president noted.
Her office has also compiled a full account of active NGOs in women affairs along with their activities and performance that is available on its online portal.

  Status of Women Breadwinners
The vice presidency regularly follows up on the state of rural and breadwinning women through its executive partners.
“We propose and pursue plans through the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad and its Office for Developing Rural and Underdeveloped Areas,” Molaverdi said.
A major successful project concerning female heads of household was the ‘Rey County Pilot Plan’, which was an effort “to develop peer networking and synergy among all executive bodies to empower female breadwinners.”
It provided for multilateral cooperation that would help such women through early support towards employment and entrepreneurship. The model project is in the making to be executed at the national level.
Molaverdi also said a bylaw on multilayer insurance programs for women is expected to be approved by the government within the next two months introduced under the Fifth Five-Year Economic Development Plan.
The insurance program will cover various vulnerable groups and provide coverage to women heads of households and housewives. Once approved, the bylaw need not be passed by the Majlis, and would be legally binding and executable.
Preparing a national document on protecting women against violence, making efforts to remove gender-bias in recruitment at state organizations, and the policy document on creating sustainable jobs for women with a priority for female university graduates in underdeveloped areas are also being pursued under her watch.
“Our ultimate aim is to move toward gender equality in all spheres from the job market to family management and social participation.”

  Atlas on Women
“Compiling and publishing the atlas on women’s issues and social harm was an unprecedented step which will help in efficient decision-making for the target groups,” said Molaverdi.
“We also surveyed the existing capacities in our academic centers that can and should be harnessed in addressing the issues.”
The joint project with the Education Ministry to reach out to girls who were deprived of education has covered over 4,000 girls in 10 provinces and is a continuing process.
Setting up family health clinics in cooperation with the Health Ministry, supporting women heads of households in cooperation with the SWO, and holding vocational training courses for women via the Technical and Vocational Training Organization are other positive steps taken so far.
Reaching out to female addicts through the Iran Drug Control Headquarters, providing support to female prisoners and families of male prisoners, empowering women in informal settlements and underprivileged  regions, providing legal and judicial support to women in need, are other issues addressed.
On the challenges facing the vice presidency in fulfilling its mission, Molaverdi said they were “both structural and bureaucratic,” and also the existing attitudes towards women’s issues.
“Most structural problems stem from an erroneous approach, and if that is rectified, the constraints can be removed.”
A national conference on ‘challenges of gender mainstreaming in the country’, has been proposed by the vice presidency and will be organized by the Center for Strategic Studies affiliated to the President’s Office in November.

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