The advancement of women in Iranhas been considerable in recent years, but their participation in community or social development programmes remains low. Although rural women form a major portion of the labour force, their participation is not considered vital in social decision-making processes due to their limited access to formal education. There is, therefore, a lack of self-esteem and confidence among women.
Official statistics show the rate of female economic activity to be 14.3%. However it is difficult to accurately assess rural female employment in traditional businesses, households and agricultural and handicraft production due to the absence of accurate statistics.
Iran has yet to accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Parliament’s watchdog body, the Guardian Council, opposed its ratification stating it was incompatible with Shari’a law. UNICEF continues to advocate for its ratification.
UNICEF aims to enhance women’s knowledge on issues of health, community participation and economic opportunities by using innovative strategies to strengthen women’s self-esteem regarding their ability to make decisions and negotiate with others and promoting women as leaders within the family and the community.
One major focus is raising awareness among policy makers of the pivotal role women play in communities. By engaging women to monitor community indicators such as domestic violence and girls’ school enrolment and retention, women will improve their capacity to assess, analyze and take action, and strengthen their role as agents of change in communities. The participation of women in village development committees and village government is also encouraged.