Source of the photo: https://www.presstv.ir/
The first International Congress on Women of Influence (ICWI) was held in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at the International Conference Centre, with the participation of representatives of various friendly countries, on January 20, 2023. This first congress was held under the patronage of the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim RAISI, Dr. Jamileh-Sadat ALAMOLHODA, writer and university professor in the field of philosophy.
In this context, women scientists, cultural figures, and high-ranking political figures from 28 countries, respectively 300 foreign guests (from China, Australia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Cameroon, Serbia, Armenia, Sweden, Bulgaria, South Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, etc.), including 70 government officials, gathered in the Iranian capital to celebrate the efforts and achievements of women around the world at this conference dedicated to “women of influence”. The first of its kind internationally, this conference was based on the format of a ceremony previously limited to Iranian women.
ICWI’s goal is to introduce an effective mechanism to promote the position of women and the ability of influential and outstanding women around the world to reach a model based on social justice, religious, and local values. Moreover, ICWI proposes to explore the possibilities necessary for expanding roles and the capacity to influence the world, with an emphasis on understanding local cultural and religious women.
Being a woman means being at the centre of offering compassion and hope through individual work, family, and society. Thus, ICWI is the context needed to create a collaborative and inclusive environment to find ways to empower women in leadership roles and fight existing discrimination against women.
Therefore, the presence of influential women from around the world was a unique opportunity to take essential steps to combat discrimination against women and seek social justice. To achieve these goals, in the future, ICWI could explore conceptual-operational schemes, in areas such as content production and multimedia development.
The evening before the event, Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim RAISI had a meeting with the participants of the congress, together with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Hossein AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN.
The main purpose of the event was to highlight the appreciation for women of influence, while providing support and help for the development and promotion of their ideas, as Dr. Ensieh KHAZALI, Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, said in the opening remarks, an aspect appreciated by Mrs. Anna HAKOBYAN, wife of the Prime Minister of Armenia, who emphasized the important role women play in promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Mrs. KHAZALI stated that on the side-lines of this conference with foreign countries, 10 agreements and MoUs were concluded between the Iranian side and different foreign delegations, with the purpose to promote bilateral interactions in the cultural, academic, sports and health spheres.
Throughout the day dedicated to the event, held on three different levels: cultural, scientific and a special panel for ministers and first ladies, morning and afternoon sessions were organized to provide participants with a platform to share valuable insights and experiences on the challenge’s women face in today’s world.
In the morning program of the congress, Dr. Jamileh ALAMOLHODA, the wife of the Iranian president, and her counterparts from Armenia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Guinea, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka, as well as the President of the Central Women’s Council of Turkmenistan and the special envoy of the Syrian President, Dr. Bouthaina SHAABAN, gave speeches. The foreign guests were scheduled to attend an exhibition that showcased the latest achievements of Iranian women (as indicated in the Annex below).
During the actual Congress meeting, women from different countries emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran has an effective role and great potential for the world community. Defending women’s rights and expanding the opportunity for their presence in the political, economic, and social fields, as well as combating injustice against women, were other approaches mentioned by the participants. Regarding this, the first ladies present stated that society should come together to overcome women’s issues and prepare a proper road map.
During the specialized session of the First International Congress for Women of Influence, a proposal from Iran to form the International Association of Women of Influence was agreed upon, with the memorandum of understanding to be signed by the participants.
At the end, the first lady of Iran thanked her guests for supporting the initiative, while the event concluded with a special ceremony in which the Goharshad Award was presented to seven of the influential women, thus recognizing their outstanding performance and contributions.
2. Iranian President Ebrahim RAISI’s views expressed during the meeting with the guests at the Congress
President Seyyed Ebrahim RAISI expressed his satisfaction that the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted influential women from different countries and said: “I hope that the women present at this meeting can think together, agree and, together with the interested people, with similar ideas, are able to take a step towards realizing the rights of women in the world”.
The President of Iran also expressed the hope that the women present at this congress will be able to use the valuable experiences gained by the Islamic Republic after the Islamic Revolution in the field of women’s rights, and together with the women of Iranian society, establish a partnership and a fruitful cooperation following this meeting.
Stating that this meeting and discussions can pave the way for cooperation between countries and nations, RAISI added: “We have no doubt that men and women are different on the basis of creation, but there is no difference between men and women on the basis of humanity.” RAISI emphasized that there is no difference between men and women in achieving the major goals of humanity and whoever strives more in this direction will reach the heights of morality, spirituality, and humanity.
Adding that all important historical events have been connected to various female personalities, RAISI stated that: “Women should not be marginalized or isolated in societies.” He added: “The correct definition of a woman is that both men and women are human beings and there are even women who influence men.”
3. The agenda of the event on January 20, 2023
- 10:15: The official meeting with the special guests present at the Congress. Guests were welcomed by Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Dr. Ensiyeh KHAZALI.
- Andre SOKOTORE, wife of the Former President of the Republic of Guinea Conakry;
- Melika IESOFO, wife of the Former President of Niger;
- Ayesheh RIMI, Senior Adviser to the First Lady of Nigeria and Special Envoy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
- Shiranthi RAJAPAKSA, the wife of the Former President of Sri Lanka and currently the wife of the President of the ruling Party in Sri Lanka;
- Bouthaina SHAABAN, political and media adviser of the Syrian Arab Republic;
- Akjemal DURDYEVA, head of the Central Council of the Women’s Union of Turkmenistan.
- Anna HAKOBYAN, wife of the Prime Minister of Armenia;
- Keylem de Tambela KANSOLE, wife of the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso;
- Shanaz IBRAHIM AHMAD, wife of the President of Iraq;
- Aigul JAPAROVA, wife of the President of Kyrgyzstan;
- Tamara VUCIC, wife of the president of Serbia.
- 11:00: Visiting the exhibition of Iranian woman’s abilities, International Exhibition Center;
- 14:00: Official lunch offered by the wife of the Iranian President;
- 18:00: Presentation at the International Conference Center;
- 19:00 – 22:30: The Event: the 1st International Congress for Women of Influence.
4. The Congress and the speeches of the personalities
The speech of the wife of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Jamileh-Sadat ALAMOLHODA, was extremely powerful, in which she urged unity for the future of Iran. She indirectly urged the people of Iran to come to reason and overcome the current problems, in a tone that left no room for interpretation or negotiation. The speech was similar to the one of a president impossible to be challenged.
The event started with a series of speeches by the official women present at the conference, namely: first ladies Mrs. Anna HAKOBYAN, wife of the Prime Minister of Armenia; Mrs. Kyelem de Tambela KANSOLE, wife of the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso; Mrs. Shanaz IBRAHIM AHMED, wife of the President of Iraq; Mrs. Aigul JAPAROVA, wife of the president of Kyrgyzstan, and Mrs. Tamara VUCIC, wife of the President of Serbia.
Mrs. Anna HAKOBYAN, the wife of the Prime Minister of Armenia, mentioned the role of women in Armenia in various spheres, such as politics, health, or armed forces. In her speech, she highlighted her initiative, the “Women for Peace” campaign, which failed due to the 44-day war, in this regard, indicating Azerbaijan’s position towards Armenia after the war, the aggression on the sovereign territory of Armenia, the detention of prisoners, desecration of corpses, etc., adding that this war was a war against freedom, democracy, and peace. She also noted that during the war, she appealed to the first ladies of several states through an open letter.
Elsewhere in her speech, she spoke about recent incidents and the blocking of the only connecting road between Artsakh and Armenia by fake environmental activists from Azerbaijan, risking the lives of 120,000 residents, depriving them of essential goods, health, education etc., thus adding that Azerbaijan pursues the policy of ethnic cleansing towards the Armenians of Artsakh, and in order to prevent these actions, it is necessary for the international community to condemn these facts.
At the end of the speech, she appreciated and thanked the organizers of the congress, expressing Armenia’s willingness to organize the second international congress for influential women, an idea welcomed by Dr. ALAMOLHODA, the wife of the Iranian President.
The first lady of Kyrgyzstan, Mrs. Aigul JAPAROVA, emphasized that the Forum will give an important boost to the common cause of empowering all women. She expressed her hope that the Congress will become a good dialogue platform for discussing the importance of women’s contribution to the development of society, rethinking the factors of women’s leadership and creating a common development strategy for the countries participating in the event.
She noted that the women of Kyrgyzstan have always made a huge contribution to the development and prosperity of the state. Without their active participation, it is impossible to rely on the revival and enhancement of people’s spiritual values, the strengthening of society’s morality and the preservation of the best features of the national character. Moreover, she highlighted the efforts made in the country to achieve gender equality. The issues of increasing the role of women and gender development are included in the National Strategy for Achieving Gender Equality until 2030, approved in October 2022. In Kyrgyzstan, an institutional mechanism covering the development of gender legislation, gender statistics and policy formation has been created as a way to impose special measures for the support of women’s leadership.
The first lady emphasized that Kyrgyzstan has gender equality legislation regarding women’s political participation. A political party is required, when drawing up the list of candidates, to take into account representation: no more than 70% of people of the same sex. So, in the 2021 parliamentary elections, 19 women were elected, and to this date, there are four women in the country’s cabinet of ministers, who hold positions in areas such as natural resources, ecology, health, personal data protection, intellectual property, and innovation.
The number of women in the republic reaches over 3.3 million (50.4% of the population). In general, their employment by type of economic activity reaches 38.4%.
Mrs. Aigul JAPAROVA recalled that she heads the Public Foundation Ene-Balaga Tirek (Support for Mother and Child), which is intended to help children and mothers, improve their quality of life, protect them and develop their potential.
Mrs. Keylem de Tambela KANSOLE, wife of the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, gave a short speech but a relevant one for this gathering.
Mrs. Tamara VUCIC, the wife of the Serbian President, used three very strong verbs in her speech: bridge, connect, and create, when she mentioned Serbia’s role in the relationship between East and West. She stated that “today we are living and experiencing a significant conjuncture for increasing the importance of the role that women can play at the global level”. As such, she also noted that 42% of Serbian officials are women. She added that in Serbia, there are 30% more women who have graduated from faculties in the technical field and noted that Serbian women far exceed the percentage of women in the West in terms of graduating from technical faculties.
She offered statements to the Serbian media upon returning to the country: “The initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to organize the World Congress of Influential Women is worthy of praise and Serbia supports this initiative that leads to the acclamation of the status of women.” She said that Serbia is interested in strengthening scientific, cultural, and political relations with Iran, which is a friendly country. Also, during her visit to the National Library of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Serbian First Lady was very impressed by its grandeur and expressed her hope to further strengthen the Serbian book section of that library, thus providing 32 publications for the fund on this occasion.
Expressing her appreciation for the event, she said: “In a meeting with the Iranian President and the Foreign Minister, we talked about our country’s positions on the recent developments in Iran and during this visit, I realized that Iran is a very friendly country”.
Another well-structured speech was that of the wife of the Venezuelan President MADURO, Mrs. Cilia Adela Flores de MADURO. This was recorded and broadcast on the screens in the hall. Expressions such as the fight against colonialism and neo-imperialism were not missing from her speech. She began her speech by mentioning the importance of the fight for a common cause of many of the state’s present in the hall. Also, she highlighted that the event in Tehran represents “a historic meeting”, for a better world; women are most affected by the wrong approach internationally and politically. She went on to say that the world needs to build a multicultural environment on many levels and in various fields to effectively and efficiently counter the Western imperialist monopoly. It also drew attention to the need to build an alternative for a better world in favor of the peoples. Thus, she mentioned that a common effort is necessary to fight for the most important treasure of any state, namely independence.
The official speeches were followed by short interventions by the other special guests: Mrs. Andre SOKOTORE, the wife of the Former President of Guinea Conakry; Mrs. Melika IESOFO, wife of the Former President of Niger; Mrs. Ayesheh RIMI, Senior Adviser to the First Lady of Nigeria and Special Envoy of Nigeria; Mrs. Shiranthi RAJAPAKSA, wife of the Former President of Sri Lanka; Dr. Bouthaina SHAABAN, Political and Media Advisor to the Syrian President; Dr. Zeynab NASRALLAH, daughter of Hezbollah leader, Hassan NASRALLAH, and Mrs. Akjemal DURDYEVA, head of the Central Council of the Women’s Union of Turkmenistan.
The most powerful regional speech from an ideological, motivational, political and geopolitical point of view was that of Dr. Zeynab NASRALLAH.
Towards the end of the program, Dr. Bibi FATIMEH gave a convincing and imposing speech about the role and importance of the event. She mentioned that 800 women from various fields participated in the Congress (of which 300 were part of the foreign delegations and 70 had official status). Also, 36 of these were nominated, and then seven women were proposed to be awarded at the First Edition of the Congress. Furthermore, she pointed out that the event started many months ago (early 2022), during which these preparations and selections took place. In this regard, a film was also prepared about the women selected.
5. Awards festivity
During this event, the merits of the following people were noted:
- The first awardee, originally from Thailand, Prof. Vannajan Sanghiran LEE, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (research scientist in chemistry, biochemistry). It was awarded by a duo consisting of ALAMOLHODA, the wife of the president of Iran and Dr. Zeynab NASRALLAH;
- Soudeh GHAFOURI-FARD, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran (researcher in genetics);
- Elena KAZANTSEVA, Russian Federation (researcher);
- The fourth awardee, Dr. ZAHRA, Iran (relevant researcher in the technological field);
- Miriam BEATRIZ, Argentina (chemistry researcher);
- The sixth also from Iran (researcher in the field of chemistry);
- The latest person awarded, Prof. Pan XIAOWA, the People’s Republic of China (researcher in the bio-macromolecular field).
Awardees are from research and innovation fields. The winners of this congress also received a certificate from the National Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The awards ceremony was the occasion for the launch of a fund that will be offered to the future winners.
6. Conclusions of the Congress
With three main themes – entrepreneurship and economy, social and philanthropic activities, and science and technology, ICWI envisages the accomplishment of the following objectives, in line with the common interests and values of the participants:
- Establishment of the International Association of Influential Women and Children;
- Establishment of a fund to support women and children;
- Establishment of a platform for the creation of specialized training and education courses for women in areas such as health, medical treatment and entrepreneurship;
- Establishment of an international award for women of influence, through an association with international organizations, involving a selection process managed by experts from participating states;
- Establishment of an international campaign to promote influential, but underrepresented women; and,
- Establishment of an organization to support women’s rights and the fight against discrimination, based on common values, using a common mechanism agreed by the participating states.
In the future, ICWI aims to develop thoughtful policies in a collaborative process to create scholarly content, establish media campaigns with clear objectives, and create procedures to achieve congress goals. Thus, ICWI will pave a way to achieve these important goals with the active participation of influential guests.
The Second Edition of this Congress will be held in Armenia, most likely in October-November 2023, which was confirmed by the First Lady of Armenia present at the Congress.
Remarkable Achievements of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Improving the Status of Women and Family (MFA Digest, Center for Public Diplomacy)
WOMEN AND EDUCATION:
- Increased ratio of female to male students by 48%;
- Increase of over 33.3% in female university faculty members;
- Women making up 34% of faculty members at medical universities;
- Women making up 56% of state university students in the country;
- Overcoming women and girls’ illiteracy with a ratio of 99.3%;
- Increased enrollment of high school female pupils by 84%;
- Active presence of over 9500 female authors and 840 female publishers;
- Increased enrollment of primary school female pupils by 115%;
- Closing the gender gap in primary and secondary education in the country.
WOMEN AND HEALTH:
- Implementation of the Universal Health Coverage Network for all urban inhabitants and 99% of rural people and nomads;
- Performing of deliveries by female obstetricians in 95% of cases;
- Presence of 60 midwives and 2.8 gynecologists per 100,000 women across the country;
- Increase of women’s life expectancy to 78 years;
- Reduction in neonatal mortality rate per 100,000 births by 8.2;
- Reduced mortality rate of children under 5 years of age by 14.2 per 100,000 births;
- Women making up 98% of all gynecological surgeons in the country;
- Iranian women ranking 10th in the world for the lowest cervical cancer mortality rate;
- Reduced mortality rate of children under 5 years of age by 14,2 per 100.000 births.
WOMEN, EMPLOYMENT, AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
- Implementing the “National Plan of Sustainable Family-Based Business Network” to connect job seekers with entrepreneurs and companies;
- Provision of over 4200 micro-credit funds with 1200 billion Rials of governmental credit for rural women;
- Over 2390 women serving on the boards of directors of knowledge-based companies;
- The unemployment rate for women dropping to 13.7%;
- Social Security Insurance coverage for housewives;
- Social Security Insurance coverage for women-headed households;
- Social Security Insurance coverage for all rural and nomad women and girls;
- Sustainable business development via implementation of Systematic Strategy Plan for Rural and Nomadic Women Micro-Businesses based on LNSIE model;
- Women founding over 250 knowledge-based companies;
- Over 735 women working as managing directors in knowledge-based companies;
- Social Security Insurance coverage for all rural and nomad women and girls;
- Increased access to natural resources for women via women cooperatives and land allocation to their unions;
- Implementing the National Employment Empowerment Plan with a particular focus on rural and nomadic women.
WOMEN AND MEDIA:
- Presence of female directors and actresses as jury presidents at 45 international film festivals;
- Increased women’s participation in information technology by 31.5%;
- Active involvement of 903 female filmmakers in film industry;
- Active presence of 2000 female specialists behind the scenes of cinema;
- Winning 114 national and 128 international awards at prestigious festivals by female filmmakers;
- Increased access to information and communication technology for women:
- Access to mobile phone: 26 million people (45% of the total users);
- Access to the computer: 14.5 million people (48% of the total users);
- Access to the internet: 187 million people (48% of the total users).
WOMEN AND SPORTS:
- Women get access to over 16,111 gyms;
- Women have won 3302 medals at recent international sporting events;
- Female athletes have earned Olympic and Paralympic quota places;
- 70 women are serving as heads of sports delegations across provinces;
- Women possess 97 international seats in sports federations worldwide;
- 88366 women work as referees in national and international sporting events;
- There are 51 female presidents and Vice presidents for different sports federations.
WOMEN IN AUTHORITY AND DECISION-MAKING POSITIONS:
- Women holding 25.2 % of all government positions at all levels, including the highest, middle, and basic executive positions;
- Women serving as the vice presidents for women and family affairs;
- Over 1000 women working as judges in the country;
- Increase in the number of women candidates to enter parliament by 227% in the 11th term;
- Increase in the number of women as parliament members by 16.5 times since the first term;
- Increase in women’s participation in the Islamic Consultative Assembly by 5.59%.
WOMEN, ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE, AND CRISES:
- Provision of basic needs (water, food, clothing, blanket) for 117072 women in the flood-stricken areas in 2021;
- Women in charge of 40% of top executive positions in the Environment Organization;
- Provision of basic needs (water, food, clothing, blanket) for 20912 women in the earthquake-stricken areas in 2021;
- Paying monthly pension to 299,120 women affected by climate crisis in 2021;
- Setting up 21014 safe shelters for temporary settlement of women in flood-stricken areas in 2021;
- Women holding over one-quarter of top environmental executive positions;
- Setting up 20,166 safe shelters for temporary settlement of women in earthquake-stricken areas in 2021;
- Implementing the national plan of “promoting and raising cultural awareness of producing and consuming healthy, standardized, and certified products” for rural and nomadic women;
- Holding 4 terms of presidency of “Environment Organization” by women.
About the author:
He is the President of Middle East Political and Economic Institute.