Experiences Sharing

Jamileh Mollazehi
Master of Laws, Head of Neekshahr City Council, Sistan Balouchestan Province

“Sistan Balouchestan is a conservative province and there is nobody to defend our rights as women. Hearing my people’s cry regarding the many problems we have, I asked myself why not put all of my education and knowledge towards change in our society and for our women. So I decided to run against all odds and set the precedent for defending women’s rights. After I registered to run, some relatives and acquaintances began to pressure my husband to stop me. The youth rooted for me but the older generation was very discouraging. Even after I got elected they tried to convince me to resign. I resisted because I knew if I gave up, there would be no hope for the future participation of women in our councils. As a councilwoman I did a lot to support single mothers who were head of households. For instance, we initiated a co-op where women would hold pickling and other workshops in our city”

Sohaila Mohammadkhani
Master of International Law, primary member of Dashtestan City Council, Bushehr Province

“I had always been hardworking and competitive since I was a child. As a very young woman I was the governor’s adviser, and have years of teaching experience. I wanted to prove that women are not weak links, but powerful and influential. My husband was very supportive of me; so were my male peers, more so than the female ones. However, in Dashtestan there are no women in either leadership or city council positions. Women are mostly discouraged to run because they believe no one would vote for them. During office I worked with philanthropists to support disenfranchised women’s programs. I also supported women’s athletic activities by building facilities and providing equipment for women’s exercise in parks.”

Akram Tajik
Master of Urban Planning, Varamin, Tehran Province

“The thought of joining the city council started with the experience of working for the Varamin Municipality on addressing the city’s shanty towns. With the support of my family I signed up for to run for city council. I realized people were excited to see someone with a background in urban planning who had also worked closely with the municipality to run for office. My father was my biggest support. He sponsored my entire campaign.”

Zahra Zamani
Ph.D Physics, Yasouj, Sanandaj Province

“I ran in a city that is largely influenced by tribal and ethnic biases while both my family and my husband’s families were against my decision. But I was able to persist because I believed in my own ability to make a change. Few women had previously run in my district and none of them had been elected. I ran and was elected with the majority of votes. My message was “There ought to be a sun for there to shine a light.” I fulfilled most of my promises, namely the the women’s park. Working closely with the municipality and the parliament we were able to get the land and the budget. The project is in its initial phase and is soon to be inaugurated (note: the park was inaugurated in January 2017--Yalda).”

Zahra Nazari
Master of Tourism, Fooman, Gilan Province

“Unlike the rest of Gilan, Fooman is a very conservative city. People here are biased towards women’s participation in society. I really wanted to change that attitude and make it clear that women, wearing hijab and within the law, can work alongside men just like they did throughout the revolution. During my first tenure, I had a group of opponents who claimed women were not capable of this position because they lacked the patience and tolerance it required. I told them I would go ahead and prove them wrong. It appears my diligence and satisfactory performance in the first term helped me get re-elected in the following terms as well. I mainly focused on women’s health and one of my proposals for the council was the opening of a women’s park in Fooman.”

Fatemeh Ashdari
MBA, Qazvin, Qazvin province

“My family was supportive of me but I knew that I could not take on this role without keeping a balance between my personal and professional life. I didn’t advertise any message for my campaign, I only relied on my previous experiences and public service to gain people’s trust and support. I do not believe in a divide between men and women’s roles in councils. But as a woman I did advocate for women’s issues. My main focus was opening more public spaces for women’s use, for example we inaugurated the fourth women’s park in Qazvin where we facilitated Islamic lifestyle and life coaching workshops for women. I also proposed rehabilitation camps for women who had substance abuse issues.”

Touba Hejazi
Qom, Qom Province

“After my husband became a martyr, I decided to dedicate the time I used to dedicate him to my people. It is not easy running in Qom, people here still don’t count me as a native. The most influential group here among the different immigrant populations are the clergies. They take on most of the cultural work load, they care for the community and are influential in electoral processes. They are also very critical. I ran in competition with a list comprised of Turks, Lors and Fars candidates, while only two out of all of us had a Qomi last name. But in the end, people voted for the candidate who really cared for their city.”

Narges Kamali
Master of Urban Planning, Savadkooh, Mazandaran Province

“It was difficult for people to fathom a woman entering councils in this region. Even my own family, except my husband and my father were very discouraging. Before running I studied the scope of the city council member's authorities. My main focus was to connect people with the executive branches and also understand the public issues of my region. I was persistent and refused to make unrealistic promises. I didn’t promise my people a utopia, or larger than life career opportunities for their children. I was committed to bringing justice and supporting people’s basic rights. My main concern as a councilwoman was the lack of infrastructural support for women who were subject of domestic abuse. While they have no income, their government financial aid is provided through the husband's bank account even when women have the custody of their children.”

Fatemeh Kazemi
Bashareh Village, Qom Province

“At the time a lot of people were migrating from our village due to the drought. That was my main incentive to run for the council, which my community scolded me for. I was single but my family was supportive so I ran despite the community’s disbelief in me. I was determined to get what my people needed done. I referenced the Quran’s principle of equality between men and women. The first thing I did in my community was offering carpet weaving classes, then provided healthcare for women.”

Maryam Firouzpour
Master of Psychology, Babol, Mazandaran Province

“I ran against my family’s will and was the youngest elected candidate. I wanted to show everyone that women were as capable as men, I wanted to change my town’s idea of women in the society. My other motivation was to encourage young people to work side by side with the old and the experienced. I am dedicated to women’s empowerment. My main contribution to women was to work diligently and sincerely to set a great precedent for the future involvement of women in office.”

Hamideh Mahozy
Ph.D Education, Boushehr, Boushehr Province

“Both my husband and my children have always supported me. I ran with the message “For the love of her country: Iranian woman one day picks up a gun, another day a pen and today responsibility.” During the second term of councils I worked to improve women’s swimming since Boushehr is a coastal city, which was a plan we finally implemented. My other area of work was promoting women’s handicrafts using the different resources of the municipality.”

Ezzat Yadegar
BA Nursing, Yazd, Yazd Province

Worked on the issues of of single-mother heads of family, prisoners and their families. She also worked on the building and opening of the Touba Women’s Park in Yazd.

Parichehr Soltani
Shahre Kord, Sanandadj, Kurdestan Province

Known mostly for her literary work Soltani has gained reputation as a social activist in her town. She ran despite her own family’s disagreement but was elected by the people of her town.

Zahra Saleemi Akhgar
Master of Geography and Urban Planning, Hamedan, Bahar and currently Laajin, Hamedan Province, Representative of Hamedan in the Higher Council of Provinces

Believes that women were eager to see a representative of their gender so they could more openly demand the needs of their town. She did not make unrealistic promises and fulfilled all of her promises and duties within the authorities of a city and town council member.

Narges Nourollah-zadeh
Master of Architecture, Laajin, Hamedan Province

Began engagement because of her background in urban planning and architecture. Her message was “expertise, commitment and experience.” Instead of making unrealistic promises she has worked to educate the public about the limits and responsibilities of the Islamic Council.

Fatemeh Eskandari
Ph.D Chemical Engineering, Ph.D Strategic Management, Karadj Province

Her message was “Happy citizen: hopeful city.” She has worked on subsidised registration fees for women in public athletic clubs. Other areas of work include women’s arts education, life coaching, and entrepreneurship.

Fatemeh Mas-ale-koo
MBA, Saveh, Markazi Province

“I started my engagement one year before retirement. I’ve been supporting sports and athletic activities for both men and women with an emphasis on Futsal. I have always run as an independent candidate. My campaign message focused on developing more cultural venues and athletic facilities, also technical issues such as urban planning, traffic and development. Most of my colleagues were really supportive of me. Although some of them would occasionally call me a “councilman” as a compliment! I would object by echoing how problematic that was. Calling a councilwoman a councilman perpetuates the wrong belief that it is impossible to be a woman and a capable council member.”

Zahra Awvjian
Ph.D Strategic Management, Sanandaj, Kordestan Province

“With my background in management, and my activities in the social, cultural, athletic, and political realms, as well as business and charity, I wanted to be involved in councils. I kept hearing the problems in our society were structural so I wanted to engage in making structural change within municipalities and city councils. I believe women are meticulous, conscientious and detail oriented leaders, and it’s important that they are involved in decision making. As a councilwoman I worked on the opening a new women’s park, which is in progress. We formed the first committee of council women in Kordestan province where each month we visit one town, meet with the female representatives of different organizations and local government’s office and talk about women’s issues.”

Mina Eskandari
Mohajeran, MA Information Technology, Markazi Province

“Some locals approached my father and asked him to run for office. He suggested that I should run instead of him. I was very well familiar with the issues of our town and decided to be the first woman to run for office there. There were some biases against both my age and gender, but some were hopeful that a woman would be a better listener and understand their problems better. At first I didn’t pay any attention to women’s specific problems. As time went by I realized the marriage age average for women is very low in Mohajeran. So I started inviting professors and experts to give lectures in different public schools in an effort to raise awareness about the marriage age and women’s health. We organized sewing classes for women as well, also offered elementary education for adult women who had to abandon school at a young age.”

Nahid Eskandari
Ph.D Candidate in Law (Criminology), Sarkan, Hamedan Province

“I got involved in city councils by accident, but when I entered this world I realized the depth of the people’s problems and pain and believed they needed someone committed to solving them. My husband was very supportive but when I got elected nobody believed in me, they kept telling me I didn’t belong in councils and I needed to care for my household! But I persisted and one of the achievements I am very proud of is the opening of a clinic with mammogram and sonogram equipment for women in my city of Serkan.”

Azar Keshmiri
Zahedan, Sistan Balouchestan Province

“I had no tribal and ethnic support. My colleagues and friends were my biggest motivations and supporters in the elections. I refused to spend big money on advertising or making colorful, fancy posters, and fulfilled the minimum requirement of making a brochure. I promised my people to use all of my power and authorities toward their welfare. Given my background and prior experiences people trusted me with that promise.”

Sedigheh Vasmaghi
Ph.D Fiqh and Islamic Law, writer and poet, Tehran, Tehran Province

“I did not form a campaign or spend any money on advertising. Different groups volunteered to include me in their lists and they advertised for me. I only participated in meetings and gave lectures. I emphasized both before and after starting my work on the issue of financial transparency within the municipality. Another concern for me as a councilwoman was the grave lack of public spaces for women’s leisure and activities.”