The Opening of the International Conference on “The Place of Women in the Civilization of Iran and Islam” at the Iranology Foundation

By the efforts of the Iranology Foundation and in cooperation with the National Commission for UNESCO-Iran, an international conference was held virtually on the “Place of Women in the Civilization of Iran and Islam.” The conference aimed to look at the position of women in the area of “Social Responsibility” and “Home as well as Family.” The conference was held on July 4, 2020, in the form of video speeches of the opening speakers and the holding of eight specialized sessions on the following topics:

“The Women’s Place in Creation and Genesis”

“Women in Achieving Lasting Peace and Progress by Relying on the History and Civilization of Iran and Islam”

“Women in Restoring and Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage”

“Women; Self-care and Self-confidence”

“Women in Strengthening the Foundation of the Family”

“Women in Creative Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Social Responsibilities”

“Women and Futurology Studies in Science and Technology, in Islamic and Western Countries”

“Women in the Media and Cyberspace: Opportunities and Threats”

At the opening of the conference, according to the Public Relations Department of the Iranology Foundation, Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Khamenei, the President of the Iranology Foundation, Scientific Secretary, and Members of the Policy Council and the Scientific Committee of the Conference, delivered their statements on this conference. The audio and text files of all lectures and meetings have been uploaded on the Iranology Foundation’s website at woman.iranology.ir.

Specialized Meeting on “The Role of Women in Achieving Lasting Peace and Sustainable Progress”

This specialized meeting, with the participation of Dr Cvetan Cvetkovski, Officer-in-Charge of UNESCO Cluster Office in Tehran; Dr Hojjatullah Ayoubi, Member of the Conference Policy Council and Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO-Iran; Dr Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Iranology Foundation; Dr Zohreh Poustinchi, Associate Professor of Islamic Azad University, was held virtually on July 7th at the Iranology Foundation.

After welcoming and raising the issue by Dr Hojjatullah Ayoubi, Chairman of the meeting, Dr Poustinchi gave a lecture at the beginning of the meeting on “Women in Emerging Social Crisis and the Challenges of Sustainable Development in Iran.”

He mentioned the role of women in achieving peace and sustainable progress in the field of the social development process and the emerging foundations of sustainable development and women’s affairs in Iranian society. He stated: “The goal of social development is to rethink, make structural changes, and increase the capabilities of people in society, especially the marginal stratum, who are generally women, create as well as meet the needs of all human societies.” Social development is the result of progress in areas such as education, health, well-being, employment, nutrition, housing, and equality in various political, social, as well as cultural spheres, wealth, also the opportunity for equal participation and all kinds of decision-making and meeting the needs of human society.

Pointing to the importance of sustainable development in societies, Dr Poustinchi emphasized that: “The crisis of employment, marriage, role-finding, positioning, and so on… can pave the way for the sustainable development of societies with the cooperation and participation of women. Given that in the process of sustainable development and social development as well as achieving lasting peace, societies in transition such as Iran are facing many crises. We need to review and change the legal structures, increase the capacity of the bureaucracy, and be effective in resolving the peaceful issues of differences in roles in various private, administrative, and bureaucratic areas. Increasing the quality of life, in this regard, should be provided as part of the needs of the Iranian women’s community. Additionally, women’s responsibility in the social structure should be seen as an independent and efficient role.

Dr Cvetan Cvetkovski attended the conference via live chat from Paris and spoke on “Women’s Participation in the Path to Peace and Sustainable Progress Based on Education, Research, as well as Culture.”

The text of his remarks is as follows:

Excellences,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with you here today and to participate in the Panel on “Women, Peace, and Security,” as one of the many important topics being discussed at the Conference: “Women’s Place in Iranian-Islamic Civilization”.

As you certainly know, UNESCO was founded in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War, as a means of building lasting peace through developing the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.”

In an attempt to describe the mission of UNESCO, its founders wrote, in a rather poetic manner the following statement in the preamble of UNESCO’s Constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

This statement still holds true in our world of today, when we face significant rise of intolerance, conflicts, growing extremism, xenophobia, violence and refugee crises. These phenomena are not any more isolated, they affect more and more countries all around the world. It is estimated that one and a half billion people today live in fragile or conflict-affected countries.

In a world of intricate interdependencies, where a conflict anywhere can spread violence to any other part of the globe, it becomes urgent to understand that peace is fragile, even in countries where it has a long-standing tradition.

This is the reason why peace should never be taken for granted. It is an on-going process, a long-term goal which requires constant engineering, vigilance and active participation by all individuals. It is a choice to be made on each situation – an everyday life decision in all societies around the globe.

At UNESCO, we believe that peace is much more than just the absence of war. Peace based exclusively upon political and economic arrangements of governments, can never be a lasting peace. Peace can last only if based on solidarity among human kind, on greater dialogue, understanding and trust between peoples.

We believe that education, sciences, culture, and arts are important tools to bring us all closer together. In this contest, cultural diversity is not an obstacle for peace, but rather a strength that should be nourished and celebrated.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today half the world is under 25 years old. Ninety percent of the world youth live in developing countries and face what we call a ‘crisis of future’ – without relevant skills, without jobs. Societies are not secure when people lack access to basic education, health, water and sanitation, and when unsustainable practices threaten our environment. The world cannot possibly be safe when over one billion people live in extreme poverty. Communities cannot thrive when half the population is left behind.

Our planet today is facing unprecedented global challenges. The planet is under pressure, and we are reaching the limits of its boundaries. We are witnessing a radical climate change, a rising number of natural disasters, environmental degradation, desertification, pollution, shrinking biodiversity, an unsustainable use of freshwater resources…. In this context, the population growth and the related scarcity of natural resources only exacerbate the existing social disparities and inequities.

Across the world, water scarcity is increasing, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. Unless we take urgent action, this is likely to become one of the most important human security challenges of the near future.

Therefore, the protection and preservation of our biodiversity and the sustainable use of our natural resources, is of crucial importance for global peace and stability.

The current Covid-19 pandemic put on test not only the capacities of national health systems to protect human life and health, but it also challenged the global concept of human safety. It shows in a most obvious manner that global threats cannot be defeated within national boundaries, but only through international cooperation and solidarity among nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Peace is not an abstract concept. In a world of 7 billion people with limited natural resources, it is clear that individuals and societies will have to learn to live together in harmony and take responsible actions based on the understanding that our actions here and today will have implications for the lives and livelihoods of people in other parts of the world, as well as for future generations.

In addition, women can play a crucial role in all of these processes. Unfortunately, women and children are most often disproportionately affected by conflict and violence. Just as an illustration: in the context of lock-down measures in many countries as part of the precautionary measures against the spread of the corona virus, the cases of reported domestic violence against women raised by 20% globally, and in some countries more than 40%.

Women represent half of the world population, so it is obvious that they can play a vital part in peace building and reconciliation, in bringing families and communities together, and in building more societies that are resilient. In their roles as mothers and educators, women can make important contributions to fostering a culture of peace, through the transmission of values such as respect, tolerance, and non-violence. As the primary managers and users of natural resources at the household level, women also have a key role to play in environmental protection.

Yet, unfortunately, women are often overlooked in decision-making processes and the development of policies and programmes. In compliance with its mandate, UNESCO’s approach in promoting women’s empowerment consists of efforts to tackle the structural causes of inequality and discrimination against women in all of UNESCO’s field of competence, namely in education, sciences, culture and communication and information. This is the best, if not the only way for achieving equality of the opportunities for both men and women to develop their full potentials for participation and contribution in the society, including in fostering the culture of peace and harmony on individual, community, national and international levels.

I am therefore very pleased to be here at this Conference, and to take part in the reflection on the different roles that women can play in fostering peace and sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In concluding, let me express the belief of UNESCO that, in order to be sustainable, peace must start with the respect for the dignity of every man and woman. It must be nurtured through the enjoyment of their rights and the fulfilment of their aspirations. Peace is a commitment to a better future that starts today, based on shared values, and through dialogue, tolerance, respect, and understanding. This is the foundation upon which to build everyday peace in our neighborhoods and cities, within our communities and between countries.

Thank you for your kind attention

Dr. Mazaheri, in a continuation of the meeting, gave a speech on “The effective fields of women’s role-playing in the path of peace and sustainable progress.” He stated: “One of the most important words of the present age is peace, which is unfortunately challenged today due to the poor performance of some great powers. Today, the developments in the world community are in line with the strategic interests of the powerful actors and are moving more and more towards war. However, non-governmental actors and in the lower parts of different segments of the nation can play an important role in establishing peace and sustainable development, and the role of women in this process is very prominent and fundamental.

Referring to the role of women in the path of peace and sustainable development, he added: “Women are one of the most important groups in any society, and they are harmed by the collapse of social and political infrastructure as a result of war and militarization of governments.” According to some scientific theories, women are more peaceful and more inclined to preserve human life because they can give birth and raise children. Therefore, given that women can have an excellent understanding of peacekeeping missions, create a positive work environment, and introduce themselves as a positive and inspiring role model, obstacles to their presence in strategic decision-making and peace processes need to be removed. Member of the board of trustees of the Iranology Foundation cited women’s involvement in decision-making, providing the necessary training and raising awareness and information in various fields of peace, development, and environmental protection as key issues to help strengthen women’s role. In this regard, he called women the bearers of these teachings to their children.

To avoid gender stereotypes that emphasize women’s inability and passivity, Dr Mazaheri stated:

“Providing the necessary financial resources for the increasing presence of women in the political-economic decision-making arena”, “Launching a global movement to increase and support victims of war and end violence against women”, “Skills in gender factors related to culture”, “Peace and support for women in the media, as well as training and raising awareness and their skills to promote self-confidence and improve life and career opportunities,” are among the strategies that can change the current unfavorable situation in using women’s potential for peace and sustainable development. This can bring a brighter future for women and a more peaceful and developed world for humanity. In this regard, with the efforts of the United Nations and the institutions established by this organization to establish and maintain peace in the world, gradually, preventive diplomacy was considered as an approach to controlling and preventing conflicts from escalating into conflict and war. Moreover, increasing the participation of women in decision-making and decision-making in the peace process was a priority for the organization. At the end of the meeting, Dr Hojjatullah Ayoubi spoke on “The Role of Women in the Path to Peace and Development from the Perspective of International Organizations.” According to him, research on the position of women in world civilizations deserves careful and scholarly discussion and research. He also stated that; “Equality of women’s rights and its demand is not an issue of the Islamic world and the Iranian world, but has existed in the Western world and continues to do so. The dominant discourse on male-female relations in the Western world, according to Pierre Bourdieu (French sociologist), was male domination over women. The prevailing discourse in ancient Iran was respect for women and women’s rights, and the dominant discourse in the pre-Islamic Arab world was to ignore women. The great Iranian revolution, in her view, was a renaissance of the presence of women in the social sphere. He added; “We are facing a time when the gap between tradition and modernity is disappearing in favor of the sum of the two.” After the Islamic Revolution, women do not see the presence of society in conflict with their values, religion, and traditions. The workbook of the Islamic Republic of Iran after forty years is very brilliant. Today, women are active in universities, city councils, parliaments, and other political, social, and economic fields. The role of women in the field of culture and art is very prominent and they are ambassadors of thought, culture, and ideas in Iran.

Those interested in accessing the conference and informing about the time of holding internal and external lectures, to provide feedback and review of selected articles, can join us through the conference website at woman.iranology.ir. Also, for more information, call the conference secretariat at “021-886087779” and “0910 3167017” or write to “of.pr@iranology.ir(link sends e-mail).”

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