By Naghmeh Mizanian, Tehran Times
TEHRAN - Walking at a pavilion near Goftegoo Park in western Tehran, the music of natives from southern Iran attracts all the visitors. The largest pavilion of Qeshm Island, part of Hormozgan Province, is run by a female entrepreneur, Zinat Daryaee.
Zinat Daryaee, whose name means adornment of the sea, is really a jewel in the heart of Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf. All 54 people in Qeshm Pavillion call her Auntie Zinat since she is kind to them as an aunt. The 49-year old woman has created job for many people in the village of Salakh, where 300 of them are active in tourism industry.
The importance of Zinat's job is much felt when the traditional beliefs of people in the male-dominated village is taken into consideration. She created self-belief in the women of the area which caused them to start a job.
Zinat is not only a business entrepreneur but also a social entrepreneur who dared to end discrimination against women. An entrepreneur who is native of Qeshm, she has changed the view of people toward women's abilities.
Being happy to bring a number of 54 residents of Salakh village (18 men and 36 women), who had never seen Tehran, or maybe no place other than Qeshm Island in their entire lifetime, she speaks to the Tehran Times very friendly. However, she was very busy with different tasks and several number of visitors.
Due to encouragement of her father, Zinat, the fifth child among 10 siblings, started learning nursing since the age of 11. By the time she was 16, she was a midwife.
Zinat married at the age of 12 and her first child was born when she was 14.
Then she received some medical training and removed her burqa (face veil), a daring move never done by any woman in the village.
Zinat, now a mother of three children, faced a very bad reaction from the residents of Salakh, both men and women, for removing her veil. While she was shunned for ten years, people still went to her for receiving medical care.
According to traditions, in the male-dominated village, a married woman should wear burqa.
When she decided to remove her burqa, her husband also faced great pressure. He tolerated lots of difficulties. His friends taunted him about his wife. But today he is happy and supports his wife. He is happy that he could resist all the difficulties.
After 10 years, Zinat, being accepted by the native residents of the village, registered for council election in the village and was elected councilor, defeating 230 male candidates.
Zinat, feeling like a fish out of water when she is out of Salakh, holds a Swedish passport, and lived in Europe for eight years.
Five years ago, when she returned from Europe, she took the responsibility of nursing her sick mother. During this time, she had no business activity. After the death of her mother, she began her job as an entrepreneur.
She started her work by creating jobs for women and girls in handicrafts. They began to make art works with the remaining materials. Their handicraft works were highly welcomed. They began to export them to the UAE, Italy and Sweden.
The handicraft began with 10 women and increased to 90, when men asked Zinat to create jobs for them as well. The men were trained to work on pottery, but women showed more interest in pottery than men. However, the pottery work was not highly welcomed. Zinat is now trying to export the clay, which is the best kind of clay in the island for pottery, to Europe.
Zinat thought about an activity which can create job for people from all walks of life. In her view tourism can create job for people with different professions. For example it can create jobs for all men and women who are trained in cooking, baking, driving, boating, etc.
Zinat, now a grandmother, also runs the Zinat Traditional Garden which has embarked on reviving all traditions which have been forgotten in the region.
She is also working on a traditional hostel and a traditional restaurant in Salakh, a project that she thinks can accommodate about 150 tourists. A number of 300 residents of the village are earning their livelihood from tourism industry.
Zinat also thought about creating job for senior citizens of the village. She furnished one of the rooms of their houses with her own money and trained them to lodge tourists.
Zinat has also revived women's traditional chorus group in her tourism site, a tradition which was not performed before.
Zinat also has a great interest in wildlife and has written stories on different kinds of animals which are on the verge of extinction.
She has also been cleaning ditches for about 34 years with a group of people in the village. She also has revived some traditions relating to water and some prayers for water.
One of her sons, educated in Italy, is married to a girl from Salakh, and they are now living there.
Her daughter, educated in nanotechnology, cannot find a related job in the island and plans to go to the United Arab Emirates, the nearest country to Qeshm. Her third son is also studying in Italy.
Zinat Daryaee is the only female entrepreneur in ecotourism in Hormozgan Province, where unemployment rate among women is 44 percent.
Zinat's memoirs are also published in a book by Cheshmeh Publication.
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