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Mehr is an Iranian NGO that invests in women and helps to empower them

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Recently I went to a very enjoyable charity bazaar organized by Mehr Women Charity Organization. My friend Zari who is one of their top hard working volunteer members had informed me about this event.  So on that cloudy Friday morning I managed to leave home on time and I got there about 11 a.m.  There I was welcomed at a reception with a greetings and a smile.  The bazaar was so busy with people; many stands were offering visitor all sorts of goodies, mostly edible stuff or consumer goods, by groups, companies or individuals.  Some businesses had hired a stand to introduce their new products to the public as part of their marketing activity, I assumed.



However, the main attraction was the huge pot of Ashe reshteh with so many customers queuing up to get a bowl and try it out.  The other food stands were most tempting too and I ended up buying a lot of kokou and shami for dinner.  I also spent lots of money on buying dry vegetables- sabziePolou, Ghormeh-Sabzie, Nana Khoshek (dry mint) - to send to my sisters in London.


There was a lot of buzz and excitement.  Many, mostly young people were behind the counters and greeted visitors with big happy faces.  Soon I learnt that they do this often and for them it is a great deal of fun, as well as making them feel good; they give their time and energy for higher ideals of helping fellowmen.  I have a few pictures for you so you can see how lively and jolly this was.



At that bazaar, I became interested in those who organize such successful events and asked Zari if I could meet those who run Mehr.  Soon afterwards, a meeting was arranged and I went to their modest yet welcoming and friendly office. There I met the head of organization Mrs. Khalili-Manoucherian who started Mehr Charitable Foundation which was established in 1997 but became official in 1999, under Police Registration License No. 11264.


Mrs. Khalili told me that this was truly her dream. During her childhood she spent a lot of time with her grandparents, who were extremely kind individuals and helped many people around them. It was then that she became familiar with the pains, problems, suffering and unhappiness of many women, who came for help, and heard their stories. Since then, she always wanted to help women, less fortunate than herself, to stand on their feet and to help themselves.


She set up this NGO to help women who need help and assistance to run their lives as heads of family. Women who according to a 2000 census account for over a million, most likely 1.5 million of the population.  Their mission is “to bring hope and dignity into women’s lives by providing them with an opportunity to achieve economic independence.”


Mrs. Khalili, who has been an active board member of one of the most successful businesses in Iran before starting this NGO, has been personally involved in many philanthropic deeds.  She helped those whom she came across individually, by giving them a fishing rod rather than a fish. She helped the children of less fortunate families to get good education and supported many all the way through university. All this was limited however as she relied on her, and her family’s resources alone.



This changed, when she was invited by Mr. Mojtaba Kashan, to visit Kiyan Shahr area, in south of Tehran. There, she witnessed first hand the depravity and sorrowful lives of women whose men were in one from of trouble or another. Many were in prison, and the burden of the family fell on the women, who did not have much education or skills.  Even if they did, they did not have the means to use their skills and put it to work, so that they could earn a decent living.


This was like an awakening; she decided to talk to her friends about her new ideas and with support and cooperation of friends such as Mrs Mehrangiz Ghangizi, Mrs Firouzeh Khalatbari, Mrs Shadi-Talaab, Mrs Shiva Khalili, Sedugheh Ghasemi-Nejad and finally Mrs Naziri she set up Mehr foundation. They chose the name Mehr as it means sun and kindness in Persian


After many meetings and discussions, the ladies reached the conclusion that, economic independence breeds self confidence and a safe and healthy environment for children. Therefore, in order to empower women who have some skills, as heads of families, the best way to help them is to provide them with means of using and improving these skills and talents.  However they did not leave out those women, who had no skills at all.  They helped this group of women in other ways.



Serving Ashe reshteh


The organizations has supported many young women to get educated, learn a skill or go to university to be educated  to level that will secure them with a good job, better future and more involvement in society at large.


Since the family is a respected and reputable one it was easy to find others who came to help to start and maintain the new NGO .Even so they soon encountered many problems, as their aims were simple yet ambitious. They faced lack of sufficient money for their projects, lack of venues, and enough volunteers; as the number of people who visited them and asked for help increased and especially with prices going up their task became more demanding.  That is when they started to do the bazaar to spread their message, involve more people and get new resources and donors for their projects.


I have come to strongly believe that when an NGO or a charitable organization narrows its aims and purposes, they have a better chance of success in attaining their goals. Mehr believes in promoting and improving women’s lives by empowering those women who are family heads and the main breadwinners.  Through this, they aim to reduce depravity, vice, decadence and rakishness and bring safety, stability self-confidence and a happy and healthy home.   In this way they help open a horizon of hope and create sense of positivism for tomorrow, in an environment that hope is scarce and efforts are rewarded very little.


I was told that one of their main help is to listen and when I was at Mehr office in one of the side streets of North Sohrevardi Ave., a couple of women came in to ask for assistance.  There and then I witnessed how carefully these ladies listen. One of the visiting ladies told us that she had heard about this place from another lady who had bought some stockings from her and wanted help for her children’s education.  The other one was there to seek assistance in meeting the raise in her rent, which incidentally is not on Mehr’s mandate and agenda.


In both cases ladies listened with care and asked gentle questions in order to develop a better understanding of the problem and what the organization could do to help the visitor. In each case, none left without some gift or assistance for their family; nobody leaves here empty handed they told me.


Mehr helps women to establish means of work and employment for themselves. For example if someone knows how to sew and needs to buy a sewing machine, they lend her the money and she pays it back in installments at 0% interest.  Mehr has had many women who have used this system and made successful businesses out of it.  You do not have to be completely deprived, just a woman who wants or needs to make it on her own and earn good honest money from her work and efforts to qualify.



I saw many forms there including the relevant grant application forms and the re-payment slips. They seem to be very professional, using business methods for better good of the society.  In reply to my questions of what percentage of their grants repayment fails, they said almost none.


It was a pleasure to meet these dedicated hard working and good hearted ladies, Zari Hassibi, Sousan Khalvati, Minou Firouzie, Nahid Jallai-pour, Ms Vatanabadie the office manager and Ferdows Manoucherian, who besides Mrs Khalili were present that day.  


Mehr Charitable Organization elevates the status and self-esteem of those women in our society who have had a misfortunate but are willing and try to do something about it to change their status. This organization is exactly how I believe an NGO should be: it is open, transparent, caring, has well defined goals,  and is run by active non earning members and an active and knowledgeable board which quietly but surely is doing  a lot of good for our society. 


I like their simple motto that when you do not have anything to give, you can give kindness and stout heartiness and encouragement.


Mehr Programs include:

  • Small business loans
  • Vocational training and skills development
  • Higher education grant and loans
  • Small economic activity development program
  • Independence through education
  • Awareness enhancement


Mehr Activities include:

  • Bi-Annual Clothing drive
  • Job placement Referral Services
  • Medical Referral Service
  • Family Counseling Referral Services
  • Bazaars



Mehr Achievement includes:

  • Empowerment of over 350 women since they started.
  • Graduation of many ladies from Iranian universities.



Albourz building, Unit 9, No. 12 Nikooghadam St.

N. Sohrevardi Ave.,

Tehran / Iran

Tel/Fax: 88745302


Web address:



Bank addresses:

For Foreign Currencies

Mehr Foundation

Bank Tejarat, Saadi Branch

Account. 25092384



For Rials:

1. Mehr Foundation

Bank Tejarat, Hoveyzeh Branch,

Account no. 46770692



2. Mehr Foundation

Bank Tejarat, Saadi Branch,

Account no. 204900



In order for women to achieve their economic and social independence,  they need a helping hand, and if you think you do not have anything to give, give love and encouragement.   Please help Mehr if you find their agenda agrees with your ideals.
Thank you.


... Payvand News - 12/20/05 ... --

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