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Female-Headed Households Deserve Better Deal

Female-Headed Households Deserve Better Deal Female-Headed Households Deserve Better Deal

Supportive organizations such as the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee (IKRC) currently cover only 45% of female-headed households in Iran, said Soosan Bastani, deputy for strategic studies at the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs.

“Philanthropic organizations support less than half of the households headed by females while they number more than 2.5 million, comprising 12% of all women in the country,” she said at a meeting at the vice presidency on Sunday.

Noting that the number of such women has seen a 72% upsurge over the past 15 years, Bastani said this social stratum is financially more susceptible than male heads of households “and their health and hygiene costs are more than that of men,” IRNA reported.

About 43% of female-headed households are in the lowest economic decile, while only 16% of male-headed households fall under the category.

“However, studies show that the life expectancy among the women is higher than their male counterparts.”

Sistan-Baluchistan, Hormozgan, and Golestan are the top three provinces with the highest number of female breadwinners, with Sistan accounting for nearly 16% (or 400,000).

The southeastern province is the most underdeveloped and deprived region in the country. Its long distance from the capital has further undermined its potential turning it into a haven for heroin and opium-smuggling from across the border through neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the rate of social harm in Sistan-Baluchestan is lower than the national average, according to Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei.

Bastani put the average age of female breadwinners in the country at 57, while it is 44 for men. “A large number of households are run by women over 65.”

Women heads of households also have lower educational qualification than men. About 44% (or 1.1 million) of these women between 45 and 65 years of age are illiterate, and 41% live on their own.

   Empowerment Programs

A study on 2,100 women in eight provinces aged 18-55, highlights some of the most common problems among this social group.

“Discrimination and inequality, unemployment, and lack of social security are predominant issues,” Bastani said. “Lack of freedom and right of choice (due to financial constraints), low social status, and social exclusion were other problems mentioned in the study.”

The study surveyed women from Isfahan, Ahvaz (Khuzestan Province), Tabriz (East Azarbaijan), Tehran, Zahedan (Sistan-Baluchistan), Sanandaj (Kordestan), Shiraz (Fars), and Mashhad (Khorasan Razavi).

A majority of the women said they expect better planning to ensure social security, right to social freedom, cultural and recreational programs, and prevention of social harm “before tackling economic problems.”

The vice presidency has been devising schemes to empower such women in cooperation with several organizations, namely the ministries  of labor, cooperative and social welfare, agriculture, health, and education.

The schemes are modeled after a major successful project piloted in 2015 dubbed 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 to help 7,000 women heads of households through early support towards employment and entrepreneurship. Programmed by the vice presidency, the second phase of the plan is currently underway in all 31 provinces in cooperation with pertinent provincial authorities.

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