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Widening Gender Divide and Increasing Impoverishment of Women

One of the most telling indicators of economic, political and cultural development, gender equality and the empowerment of women, isstreet vendors in Gilan Iran women’s share of economic resources and their influence in the country’s economy. According to agreements and official documents of international gatherings on women, ‘promoting development, eradicating poverty, promoting and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment are among effective factors for the realisation of human rights (World Conference on Women, 1995), and governments have a duty to plan for these and to implement them.

Therefore, one of the most important indicators of development is the rate of employment among women and its effect on the country’s economy. From this point of view, Iran has a deplorable rating, even among the countries of the region. The report of World Economic Forum, held in 2015, ranked Iran 137th in the world, in terms of women’s economic inequality. This ranking shows a drop of 7 positions since 2013 (cited from Bidarzani9th April 2016). Also, Iran is among the most unequal countries in the world, in terms of political empowerment. Only a small percentage of the parliamentary seats are held by women, and those women who are members of parliament, do not show the independence, values, or political will to eradicate gender inequality and sex discrimination. At ministerial level, too, their path is closed and if appointed, they are bound to implement the misogynistic and reactionary policies of the regime.
Meanwhile, during every election, in Iran, those in power pay lip service to the importance of women’s participation in the political and economic life o the country. Once in power, they forget their election promises. Discriminatory policies in the workplace and in education, limiting the educational and employment spheres for women, alongside ratifying misogynistic laws aimed at forcing women into the home, have led to the deepening gender and class divide affecting the poor and working class women, most adversely. This policy has been clearly set out by the Supreme religious Leader, Ayatollah Khamene’i, and successive governments are obliged to implement it. For example, while the number of women graduates exceeds men, the Islamic Republican regime engineers the rules in order to prevent their entry into the workplace by ratifying bills, just as it did with the Bill for the ‘Ban on the Employment of Unmarried Women’ in offices. The result of these destructive policies is that today, in our country, the rate of employment among women has dropped by 12% and in 20 provinces the rate of unemployment among young women exceeds 40%.
Also, according to official reports, surveys show that the number of women in employment has dropped by 600,000 between 2005 and 2015. In 2005, around 4 million women were in employment, and their numbers dropped to 3.4 million in 2015.
These statistics should be seen in conjunction with the fact that the number of households headed by women has had an exponential increase in recent years. These women are known as the poorest of the poor. Most have low literacy, or skills and have no access to jobs in the formal sector. They are heavily exploited in the informal sector.
According to unofficial figures, around 2.5 million, and according to official figures, 1.4 million women had households. Their numbers increase by 600,000 every year. According to official figures, in the last 10 years, the number of households headed by women increased by 58%, compared to those headed by men.
Extensive privatisations and the selling off of state-owned factories and concerns, have led to increasing unemployment and job insecurity in the society. Women are the first victims of these policies. While they have suffered irreparable harm because of privatisation, economic liberalisation and removal of subsidies, they have suffered additionally because of gender discrimination and exploitation. They have been denied equal access to any diminishing opportunities. For this reason, the struggle of the enlightened women of Iran against sex discrimination, and exploitation, is entwined with the struggle against the anti-popular regime and its medieval, misogynistic version of neo-liberal social and economic policies.
MaZanan, 31.07.2017

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