By Syma Sayyah, Tehran
Since I first thought like a woman many moons ago I have honored this day, which women have celebrated since 8th March 1909 in New York. The one thing I so deeply admired about them is the fact that they did not think of themselves as victims, despite all the odds, together they took some initiatives and took their lives in their own hands, and did they think themselves better than others. Here we also have to change men and women's attitudes and upbringing. A women's job is more important since it is women, as mothers, wives, sisters, colleagues and so on have a great influence on how men think about women, thus they must show and prove, individually and collectively, that they do not need a protector and are able to take care of themselves, thus accepting full responsibility for their lives.
I have always believed that one of the main essences of independence is financial responsibility. I have been working since I was 12 when I started part time work and it has been over forty odd years now.
Throughout my life I have tried to help, assist, guide and train as many women as came my way and always one thing is universal, no matter what background they come from, I encourage them to work, have a social existence and earn a living, the rest will come sooner or later, one way or another.
So dear ladies, let's stop treating not only ourselves but other women too as victims and try and use the education the luckier ones of us have had to educate others and help or find ways to show them how to choose to train themselves for a real job in the 21st century, so that they will not be victims and at the mercy of their fathers, their brothers, their husbands and even their sons. But in order to accomplish this task we must change attitudes too, theirs and yes, our own if need be. Let's move towards an Iran that does not care for mehrieh  whether it is on demand or based on ability. I almost fell off my chair when a young woman human rights lawyer told me that she did not ask for the right of divorce and instead went for a big dowry.
Let's go towards a time when a wedding is based on what the bride and groom want rather than the wishes and (sometimes) deep pockets of their parents. Let's start to grow up and become and act like adults who know what they want and take responsibility. We must teach our young people that marriage is not a business and the purpose of life is not to find a rich husband. Of course it is our right and we deserve to have equal rights to men, but we must accept that freedom comes at a cost and that we cannot eat our cake and have it at the same time.
In Iran today over two thirds of graduates are women, but only about 13% of the girls who leave university enter the workforce. Often women engineers and women doctors graduate but choose not to work in their profession. Please do not tell me there is no work, yes it is difficult but by some magic force those who need it will find it, although working is hard, especially getting up to go to work and putting up with your male and female colleagues, managers and customers etc.
We have many talented women doctors, educators, lawyers, professors, heads of companies, managers, architects, engineers, bankers, nurses, sales representatives, taxi drivers and even now bus drivers, but could do with many more. Somehow the patriarchal attitudes in Iran persist - the husband is the breadwinner and the wife should not have to work. Marriage is a union and a union should be based on sharing. This attitude must be reversed not by force but by choice!
Let us mark International Women's Day by ensuring that a much higher proportion of graduates enter their chosen professions. Only by educating the women and changing their attitudes will women achieve equal rights in this country. Let us have the courage to be pioneers and show the path by becoming successful, by choosing women professionals to do our jobs.
Where there is a will there is a way. In the 21st century we have to stop thinking like victims, and stop others thinking that way. Stand up and start to take control over your life - first and foremost is a good job which requires good education. Once you have done that, help other women related or coming your way to do the same, we shall get there by being there to change things for ourselves rather than letting men do it for us.
A very happy International Women's Day to you all!
1. mehrieh is a payment which can be demanded by a wife at any time, usually on separation or when a husband wants a divorce.
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