Social, political and quality of life issues in Iran were among the key talking points at Norma Claire Moruzzi’s lecture titled Women in Iran Today, held in the Founder’s Lounge on March 1.
Moruzzi, who is the director of the international studies program and chair of the Middle East and Muslim Societies Cluster at the University of Illinois at Chicago, concentrated on the ever changing nature of the Iranian lifestyle after the country’s revolution in 1979.
“When I first started going to Iran, most of the people I interacted with told me ‘It was a paradise before the revolution,’” she said. “But as I started doing more research I found out [that] at the time of the revolution Iran was a majority illiterate country and there was a huge literacy gap between men and women. And one of the things about literacy statistics is that they tell you about general social development and differentials between men and women.”
Moruzzi compared the previous literacy rate in Iran to more recent numbers to show Iran’s strides toward a more modern and developed society.
“By 1986 [literacy ]is already well above 50 percent and that includes the entire population,” she said. “So by the time 2011 comes around rates are up to about 84 percent, which is pretty decent.”
Moruzzi also used the rising median age of married women in Iran as a sign of improvement regarding social circumstances in Iran.
“Since 1986 when the post-revolutionary state had already been pretty well established, the median age of marriage goes down a little bit but then starts rising for men, but for women it just keeps going up,” she said. “So after a few decades following the revolution not only is there very little difference in age of marriage between urban and rural populations, but there’s also very little difference between men and women. ”
Moruzzi stressed that in the face of the changing social climate in Iran, it has ultimately yielded a society where women are experiencing an increasingly equal social role with men.
“This is again an indication about the fact that women are educated, women are empowered and they feel that sense of equivalent access with men to things like education for instance.”
In a one on one interview, Moruzzi took a look at the larger scale of Iranian life, and concluded that the changes currently being seen in Iran are a result of the progress made in all aspects of that society.
“If you want women to be more involved in the paid economy then you also have to pay attention to what kind of support there is for things like domestic life. That means everything from health care to child care to elder care and transportation and all sorts of things that deal with how people can function,” she said. “We know looking globally that countries that do these things well tend to have more women in the work force. It works, but you have to put in that social commitment.”