This month, Scholars at Risk honors International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD, celebrated every year on March 8, provides time to reflect on the progress made for women’s rights, to call for improvements in inequality, and to celebrate women pushing for gender equality. This year’s United Nations’ IWD theme is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” which “will focus on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.”
Discussion about these topics is incomplete without addressing women’s access to education and the work of women scholars and women’s rights scholars in academia. To celebrate this theme, we share Rezvan Moghaddam’s Courage to Think dialogue from our 2018 Congress held at Freie Universität Berlin in Berlin, Germany.
Ms. Moghaddam, a women’s rights activist and scholar with over 30 years of experience in social change, will soon receive her PhD in sociology from Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on social change in topics and issues that affect women, especially those living in countries practicing Islamic law. For her dissertation, she is analyzing the women’s rights’ movement in Iran and how new media platforms have been harnessed by the movement to further its objectives.
Ms. Moghaddam’s activism spans more than a decade. She served as one of the founding members of the One Million Signatures campaign in Iran, which is a campaign by women in Iran to collect one million signatures in support of changing discriminatory laws against women in the country. She also founded and co-founded other campaigns related to women’s human rights in Iran, such as the International Campaign Against Violence in Iran (ICAVI) and the “All against Acid Attack” Campaign. Because of her human rights advocacy, she was threatened, arrested, and imprisoned several times and most recently, sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and ten lashes in Iran.
In her 2018 Courage to Think dialogue, Ms. Moghaddam shared advice for others campaigning for change for women and how scholars can get involved:
The road of democracy is a long one and it could be a generational struggle. I think we shouldn’t be disappointed or we have to be patient, we cannot change overnight. For example, the patriarchy was shaped over centuries, and it’s difficult to change this structure. It is important to raise awareness in society, and a scholar can improve [the society] by research and writing articles, there are many ways, and these days, we have social media.
One time [when] I was arrested by Iranian security forces, I had a discussion with my interrogator. I want to say that in each situation, we can change something, even if you are in prison. Nowadays in Iran, women from inside prison do things [to improve society]. I remember that my interrogator told me that we control you, we monitor your activities…but…I opened a discussion with him and shared I will…challenge any law that does not recognize me as a human, as a complete human, or equal to man.
Ms. Moghaddam’s experience showcases risks faced by scholars pushing for a gender-balanced world, which SAR has seen can range from self-censorship to risks to their lives, but her story and courage illustrate the importance of fighting for equality.
To participate in honoring IWD, women scholars, and scholars pushing for gender equality consider Tweeting the following:
Join @ScholarsAtRisk in honoring #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2019: Celebrate the courage and important work of women scholars and all academics pushing for gender equality despite the risks. #BalanceForBetter