Mei Hosts a Panel Discussion on the Rights of Women and Children in Iran

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A panel discussion on the rights of women and children in Iran was held at the Middle East Institute on March 11, 1998. Panelists discussed developments surrounding the national seminar on child rights held in Tehran last November, adjustments in legislative and social policies, child rights in the Iranian context, and the need for broad national alliances to address problems such as child abuse and juvenile justice.

Catherine O'Neill, who is the founder chair and program chair for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, started the discussion by giving her perceptions of Iran after her first visit there. O'Neill said that though UNICEF is a nonregistered NGO in Iran, it had the opportunity to hold a conference about the rights of women and children in Iran. "A number of speakers at the conference spoke out for a harsh change concerning women's issues in Iran," she added. A number of Iranian women who had attended the conference told O'Neill that this phenomenon was unusual in Iran.

"More women are elected to the parliament in Iran," O'Neill said. Male candidates tend to associate their names with female candidates because they raise issues that are becoming more popular in Iran, she added,

Zahra Shojaie, President Khatami's adviser on women's affairs and director of the Center for Women's Participation, was the second speaker. Mrs. Shojaie began by describing the situation of children in Iran. The fact that over 50 percent of Iranians are under 15 years of age is "very challenging," she said. "To meet this challenge, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has formulated a national plan, covering up to the year 2000" Shojaie said. The plan aims at implementing the provisions of the con- vention of the Rights of Child that were ratified by the Iranian government in 1994.

Mrs. Shojaie announced that the overall and long-term policy approach of the new administration under President Khatami recognizes the needto help Iranian women find their proper status and play their due role in society. …


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