SAT-7 PARS’ live women’s program Insiders is challenging culturally accepted actions and behaviour that restrict women’s rights and lives in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, and reinforce the notion of women as second-class citizens. A special episode of Insiders broadcast on Women’s Day, March 8th, highlighted the role of women as heads of households and as breadwinners.
Women in Persian societies are often marginalized and overlooked, their identity dependent on their relationship with a male relative as sister, daughter, mother, or grandmother. Their basic rights as humans are restricted or denied; they are prevented from travelling independently; they are told what to wear; they inherit less than their male counterparts; their word is valued less than that of a man in court; and they are even prohibited from cycling or riding motorbikes.
A special episode of Insiders on Women’s Day focused especially on marginalized and vulnerable women such as widows, divorced women, the wives of immigrants, self-employed women, and wives of men with disabilities, who take on the role of heads of the household and as breadwinners. Assuming responsibility for their families in societies that do not support them, these women face major economic and social challenges that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
STARTING A DIALOGUE
Seeking to raise awareness of these women and the obstacles they face, the presenters of Insiders, Hengameh Borji and Sally Momtazi, challenged viewers to consider the importance of empowering women and improving their status at home and in society.
“We can’t do anything about changing the laws in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan,” says Sally, “but we can inform viewers and start a dialogue that we hope can lead to the empowerment of people, and eventually to positive changes in society.”
“Through Insiders we want to demonstrate women’s equal value, status, and potential, and to help viewers understand how precious they are in God’s sight,” adds Hengameh.
The program is not viewed only by women; men also watch Insiders, sharing their thoughts and attitudes with the presenters. Responding to a recent episode which addressed Social Justice and Women, Toranj, a man in Iran said, “Under Iran’s law, the life of a woman is worth half that of a man, but while these injustices and inhumane laws exist, no one will have equal human rights; whether boy or girl, man or woman, old or young. Injustice must be completely uprooted. Merely cutting the branches will not change the nature or the bitter fruit of the tree.”
Dariush, a male viewer, from Iran added, “In my opinion, women must have the benefit of equal rights in society.”
Hengameh and Sally share that their hopes for the program are that “women will come know their rights. Often Iranian women are so accustomed to the system that they cannot imagine being in any other situation. The oppression is normal to them, and they don’t recognize it for what it is. The other thing we would like to see is women becoming able to defend themselves and take positive steps in correcting the kind of life that is forced on them.”
- For women in Afghanistan, whose basic rights are under even greater threat now under Taliban control
- For women in the Persian-speaking-world, that they will come to understand their value in God’s eyes and know that they are loved
- For SAT-7 PARS’ viewers, that they will be empowered to stand against cultural norms that reinforce the perspective of women as second-class citizens, and that they will work to bring about a positive change in their homes, families, societies, and countries