Celebrating Iranian Women’s Leadership

We hosted an event celebrating the long tradition of Iranian women’s leadership, as well as the diversity of ways women inside Iran and in the diaspora have been committed to women’s rights across generations. At this event, we honored Mahnaz Afkhami and Dr. Shirin Ebadi for their leadership and exceptional contributions to advancing human rights and women’s rights in Iran.

This event was hosted by Ambassador Melanne Verveer; Nazenin Ansari, the Managing Editor of Kayhan London; and Shéhérazade Semsar de Boisséson, GIWPS Advisory Board member and the CEO of POLITICO Europe.

Panelists included Leila Alikarami, a lawyer and human rights advocate; Shadi Sadr, the Executive Director of Justice for Iran; and Pooneh Ghoddoosi, the Presenter and Business Development Manager for Global Partnerships of BBC. Nazenin Ansari moderated the discussion.

About the honorees:

Mahnaz Afkhami is founder and President of the Women’s Learning Partnership, former Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran, and former Secretary General of the Women’s Organization of Iran. Prior to the revolution, Afkhami taught English literature at the National University where she founded the Association of University Women. As Minister for Women’s Affairs, she played a key role in passage of Iran’s progressive family law of 1975, which dramatically increased women’s rights in marriage, child-rearing, and divorce. She also helped create and mobilize support for the establishment of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). In exile, she founded the Foundation for Iranian Studies that has published Iran Nameh, the foremost journal of Iranian Studies, and created 1,000 hours of oral history documenting the experiences of leading figures in a wide range of fields. Her publications include Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation, Faith and Freedom, In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-revolutionary Iran, Women in Exile, and Women and the Law in Iran. She has co-authored several manuals on leadership and political participation that have been translated into twenty languages. Afkhami serves on the boards of the Freer/Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution and the Advisory Committee for Women, Human Rights Watch.

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and human rights activist, was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her pioneering efforts to promote the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran. The first Iranian and Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Ebadi has had an extensive legal career, and became Iran’s first female judge when she was just 23 years old. Following the Iranian Revolution, she established a pro-bono law practice and founded the Human Rights Defenders Centre to combat injustices in the legal system. Dr. Ebadi has since written numerous texts dedicated to women’s and human rights and helped establish the Nobel Women’s Initiative to promote peace, justice, and equality for women.