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8th March belongs to all women everywhere: Happy International Women's Day

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran - I come from a very mixed and rather unusual background. Women in our family have been even more different than those around them. I have seven sisters and six brothers from two fathers and five mothers.

My grandmother was married to Mr Ishmael Sayyah, the brother of Ms Fatemeh Sayyah the well known scholar, one of the first women in Iran ever to be educated and the first to teach at university. Yet because of his womanizing and drinking my grandmother took her one year old daughter and went back to her father's home and as he was doing his namaz (prayer) made him swear that he would not send her back to her husband; and she promised to work, earn money and pay for herself and her child's keep. She had a good talent for knitting and needlework and she earned their keep and later supported almost the whole family when her father went bankrupt. This was nearly eighty years ago. My grandmother, who was rather good looking, never remarried and never met her husband Mr Sayyah again. She managed to get some education and was among the first group of women to go to work, and she became an elementary school teacher in Tehran. As a child I was always amazed when in different offices and on the streets, her former pupils, mostly men, would come to say hello and pay their respects to her.

My mother was also a teacher and her zest and enormous energy as well as her wonderful laughter is what I miss now that she is gone. In her time she did things that were not normal. When she married my father she did not know that he had been married before, while she was carrying my younger sister she found out and as soon as my sister was born she got her divorce, not wanting any mehrieh (dowry) because she was a working woman and could earn her own living. This at the time was most unusual; many women put up with shit just to have a man around them no matter how unbearable he was and how he behaved. Then my mother went and did another unusual thing. She married a younger and very good looking officer who knew all about her past life. When her new husband was assigned to Gilan province in the call of duty, my grandmother promised to look after me and my sister and so she left us with her mother and went away with a baby girl who had just been born. Thus I was raised with plenty of love and never learned to wait for the man to come home to get things done, I just learned to do it or make sure that it was done. Also I was taught that a women must stand on her feet and thus good education, and working in order to earn my own living, was an absolute must goal, and thankfully despite all the hardships and difficulties I achieved both and that is why I have always been able to stand up and speak out for myself.

When I came back to Iran after finishing my studies, every year on the 8th March I would call all my women friends, wives of friends, women colleagues and acquaintances and even women strangers in taxis and would congratulate them for that day, hoping that my small insignificant gesture would one day make a difference. On 8th March 1979, alongside thousands of women like me then and now, I took part in that famous demonstration which started at Tehran University and marched to Azadi Square all along shouting the slogan dar bahar-e azadi jaye hagh zan khali: "in the spring of freedom the place for women's rights are missing." That year we went to several smaller demonstrations including ones in front of the presidential office and we went to many more in recent years.

All the time I have refused to leave my home country or to stop working even if, in the early days of the revolution, many men at work would turn their back on me to talk to me even when they sought my advice and help; yet I and again many like me stood up and carried on with our jobs and careers. I never have felt that being a women gives me the right to expect that someone else has to look after me when I am fit and capable even if is hard to be truly responsible for yourself and others.

Some women of a younger generation, who seem to lack patience and have made the women business their business, have the wrong impression of reality and believe that only they are concerned and only their method and approach is correct. Many of these ladies are like my own children and I love and respect them even though I do not agree with some of their recent activities. My disagreement with them is in their approach and tactics rather than the issue, simply because they show that they had not thought things through properly beforehand, which I find is somewhat an Iranian disease which stems from Iranian good will and wanting to see only the positive side of things and allowing hopes to overtake the realities and one's abilities. Maybe it is the time for them to take a step back and review the achievements without the positive bias. Some of these programs had not been planned well and did not have a structured strategy and above all the decision makers seem not to realize the reality about the society that we all live in.

No matter how right a teacher might be, a student will not learn until and unless he is ready! The time will come but it will require more time, more patience and endurance along with constant information and education, the rest is inevitable no matter what! Our women firstly need to be informed about the rights that they already have under the present laws of the land, this is what is needed and should be pursued by all those who care, and maybe then other issues.

Women today need to be educated and trained in order to go to work, no matter how hard it is, so that they are not financially dependent on their parents or husbands. Then they will be making a contribution to their society rather than being just a user and consumer from others earnings and efforts. Once they have learnt to earn their living and stand up for themselves, they will demand what they want for themselves and be prepared to pay for it by constant hard work and effort like true liberated women anywhere. The 8th March belongs to all women everywhere!


... Payvand News - 03/07/08 ... --

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