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Women Speak

This is a translation of excerpts of short commentaries by Iranian women talking about what concerns them most in their everyday lives. The source is the Iranian Radio Zamaneh and published in Mazanan.

“…The everyday life of women is far more difficult [than men’s], and when the law, conventions and religion are added to the mix, their lives become even more limited and constricted. Discrimination, violence, sexual violence, absence of security are among the most important concerns voiced by Iranian women who took part in the ‘conversation’ with Zamaneh Radio.
The Middle East region is even more complex in the sense of the complexity of the situation that women face. Political and economic crises, the threat of war and the power of religious beliefs and tradition in the countries of the region turn everyday life into an exhausting struggle for women. Iran has a dual aspect – on the one hand, spectrums of women have found the courage to voice their demands. On the other hand, any kind of protest against the current conditions is met with harsh reaction from patriarchal institutions, in both the family or the society.”

“Naazi, 29 years old, from Shiraz [in central Iran] – I work in an office. What bothers me most is the fact that menial tasks are always given to women. They don’t respect women at all. I work in a state office. I feel that they try to remove us in any way they can. If we protest, we are easily fired.

Mahsa, 23, resident of Tehran – The most important problem for me is that when I sit in a car [taxi] and the driver wants to start a conversation, or the gentleman next to you wants to get his money out of his pocket, he has to rub himself against you 10-20 times first. This practice is so common that I can say it is my most serious problem. In the work place, the lowest ranks belong to women. What is means is that even if you are a specialist in the area, because you are a woman, your salary is lower than your male counterpart.

Mahtaab, 25, married in the last year – My most important problem is that if I get pregnant, I don’t know how to continue my education and keep my job. [She expresses concern that she will lose her personal identity by having a baby, as she believes that women have no family or social protection in Iran.]

Lilly, 38, is now divorced– I was wandering the courts for two years. In the end I didn’t get any of my rights. The result of 12 years of married life and all the expenditure I had made is that I am homeless now. The custody of my 10-year-old son has been given to his father. As an educated woman, now I have to tolerate people’s gossip too. I am looking for accommodation in letting agencies, and although I have the money to pay, I have to tolerate obscene behaviour. At the moment, my main thought is how to find a place to live.

Atroosha, 28 is from Khorram Abad – My husband accuses me. I get imprisoned in the house. I have to bow to his family all the time. Don’t we talk of equality? Why must women work so hard while their service to the family of the husband is never seen as kindness and good nature? It is assumed as a duty, where nobody even says a mere thank you. Don’t tell me this sort of talk is basic. Don’t you want to write about women? These are serious problems in our lives. Inequality. Why does a man get thought of as unique and good if he so much as offers a cup of tea to his wife’s family? People will comment on how helpful he is to his wife. The society has no expectation from men – it has expectations from women. Outside the home, there is the same problem. Men get accepted in different environments much more readily than women, and women have to spend a lot of energy [to gain anything]. There is special attention to what they wear – to their looks. If a woman laughs, they say she’s flirting. If she is serious, they say she is manly. What is a woman to do in this damned society? I am fed up of all this pressure inside the family, in the street, in the workplace. Why is being a woman so difficult in our society? These are our cultural problems. It is these little things coming from the patriarchal view towards women that destroys them. We have financial problems too. Weren’t the other problems enough?

Arezoo, 44, from Ahvaz, [South-Western Iran] – [her worry is security] of any kind – political, state of the country, personal safety, financial security. We don’t have sexual security either, and now financial [in]security has been added to it all. My only concern now is how to reduce the family’s spending. I have cut back on everything, but still, my back is breaking. For a long time I haven’t bought anything for myself. I have turned into a robot. It is as though they have buried my heart. I hate what I see when I look at the mirror. There is no sign of joy in my life. My husband isn’t doing much better, but he has his alcohol and his cigarettes. What about me? I have no happiness in life.

Farzaneh, 28, teacher and post-graduate student in social sciences, resident of Karaj [near Tehran] – I have so many worries that I can’t read even one page of my book. I can’t concentrate at all. Rising prices, home, rent, work, clothes, food…and we are building a house – after many years. After 6-7 months the structural work hasn’t finished yet, but our money has. In the middle of all this I have to watch my husband carefully in case he goes to the [estate] agency and transfers the ownership of the house to himself. The country has no proper law. The owner of the agency will quickly forget that the one who gave him the money was the woman not the man. He won’t have a moment’s doubt; he won’t say ‘we took the money from your wife, so she should be here too.’ Whatever men say, goes. In this country, women should have their wits about them so that the money they have worked so hard for doesn’t all turn into nothing. This is the fate of the Iranian woman.

Termeh, 36 – In society, unequal rights and lack of social security is a big problem for me as a woman. At home I have no problem with my husband, but because I work and I’m in a responsible position, I get very tired. I have two jobs. But no one counts housework as a job. When I get home from work, in fact, my second job starts. Cooking, looking after the house, children’s studies…while my husband sits in front of the TV, changes channels, and asks me to bring him tea and fruits. In Iranian society, this has become so common place that it is not even noticed any more.

Mastaneh, 26, from the North- Western city of Tabriz – [she has had a baby in the last year.] After the birth of my son, who is now 6 months old, I have had to give up my university and sports. This is due to the fact that crèches don’t accept babies under one years of age. Universities allow an interruption of five terms for maternity leave, but you have to pay your fees all the same. How could a woman who has lost her job after the birth of her baby pay 200,000 Toomans per term? She has to withdraw until her child has grown up. Everything in this country is geared towards restricting women… I have no problem with men or security…because I will take my rights. My qualification is such that they will pay me whatever I demand: they need me. If anyone tries to take my right, I’ll put them in their place, but I feel sorry for myself because I don’t have any social support as a mother.

Darya, 30, with a Masters Degree, married last year – There is no security and just because you’re a woman, everyone wants to take advantage of you. I have no job security. I think every day may be my last day at work, and the company may want to lay people off. My worry in my private life is that if I want to have a baby, how will I keep my job? There is no guarantee that they’ll let me back to my job after maternity leave.

Shiva, from Kermanshah, has a two year old daughter and hasn’t been able to find a job in the last year – My problem is that there isn’t a suitable part-time job which I can do to earn something and to be able to spend several hours with my daughter, but this isn’t my only problem. The fact that I don’t have a choice of what I wear and that the hejab is compulsory upsets me, especially as the ogling by men doesn’t stop even with it.

Sahahrzaad, 27, from Rasht – My problem is that I like to spend a few hours out of the house: to go to school for example, or to the pool, or even to work, but as the responsibility of the child is solely with the mother, it always worries me to think what may happen to my child when I’m not there. While fathers go out and have a good time, if a mother leaves her child to go out, she is called cruel. The problem is discrimination. Why is it that being a mother, wife, daughter, are all so hard? I think we need a general mobilization to end discrimination against women, and the problem doesn’t end with the government.

Shirin – I am employed, with a Masters Degree and 10 years’ work experience. I am 32 and have a 2-year-old son. My most important problem at present is that my job does not correspond with my qualifications and experience. While one of the men who started work at the same time as me, is now a manager, I can never think about becoming a manager because our working environment is centered around men, and there are a thousand glass ceilings to prevent the career advancement of women.

Sanam, 42, teacher – The backward culture in relation to women causes everyone to have a sexist attitude towards women. Even if you dress plainly and you’re pre-occupied with a thousand problems and look serious – even tough – in social environments, they look at you with a sexual eye. This sexual eye can manifest itself either in covering up women, or the opposite, displaying and advertising her. The absence of freedom in the choice of clothes, women’s ignorance of their rights, … succumbing to superstitions, and the portrayal of women as weak and cheap, are longstanding problems for women. Mothers in law are all women … but they treat others of their own sex like slaves or tools for continuing the family line. This is the problem within the family. In the work environment too, women are prepared to put up with the unacceptable behaviour of a male boss but aren’t prepared to work for a female boss… Many women managers complain about their female colleagues undermining them. Why is this?”

Radio Zaman cited in Mazanan, http://mazanan.com/?p=35526

Translated by: MaZanan, 19.04.2013

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