Episode 01: A closer look into gender equality issues in Iran

Episode 01: A closer look into gender equality issues in Iran
Original Language: 

In this inaugral episode of the Comundos Podcast, Giovanna interviews Sarah, a young woman coming from Iran and now residing in Belgium. Sarah is the author of a digital story on girls' and women's empowerment (SDG5):

Let's Be Courageous for Gender Equality

In this interview, we pose further questions to learn more about Sarah and deepen our understanding of her story.


Podcast Duration: 
Giovanna and Sarah from Iran
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Podcast Category: 



Giovanna (G): Welcome to this Comundos Podcast, where we interview digital storytellers. We asked them questions related to their stories to deepen our understanding of the contents and messages. This season will focus on SDG5: Gender Equality.

For this episode, we have the pleasure to interview Sarah, a young woman from Iran that has been living in Brussels, Belgium, for some time now. Her story was a message of hope for all the girls and women to be brave and fight for their dreams.

Dear Sarah, thank you very much for taking the time to share your story and have a little talk with us. Stories like yours are very important to share and listen to, because anyone can learn so much from them, and girls and women especially can be empowered. And that's what we need in today's society.

So Sarah, to start, how long ago did you arrive in Belgium, and what has led you to flee your country?

Sarah (S): Hi, I've been living here in Belgium for about 6 years. Well, it doesn't refer to only one reason, but one of the most important was for gender discrimination that I decided to leave Iran.

G: Okay, I see. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for you. Thanks for clarifying this aspect, but I still wonder: If discrimination against women is a major issue in Iran, what exactly are the main barriers as a girl or woman in Iran? Could you explain this further?

S: Well, to be honest, I think these days we see more freedom for women rather than the time I left my country. However, there are still many things women suffer, and in total I can say that women in Iran, they don't have the same rights as men. Being a woman in Iran, to me means that you have to be a very nice housewife, you have to play a perfect role as a mother, you have to be a nice wife for your husband. Well, and if you are still working... So, I think you have to adapt yourself with the society, you have to adapt yourself with everything you are expected to do at home. And for this, I think still there are some bugs in our country and women, they are still staying behind a man, and this is because our society, unfortunately is man-centered. For this, men, they have always more rights than women.

G: Okay, so compared to the time when you left your country, have women gained more rights now in Iran?

S: About the situation in Iran, unfortunately I can say that it becomes better, but worse. For example, many women are killed by their fathers or their husbands because they couldn't play well their role as being a woman. And another important thing is that, well, women can't go abroad without their husband's permission. And this is a big catastrophe. And women, they lack some rights, such as divorce, such as custody. There exists also another rule for those families who are really strict. And in these families, women are so limited and they can't even visit their relatives without their husband's permission. On the other hand, women are easier now to work in the society. We see that more, but there exists always one problem: that women are always the victim, and most of the time they are not safe. Another thing is that children in our society always belong to their father and not the mother, and maybe it's also a good point that we hear nowadays that women can go to the stadium, but I don't have really some more details.

G: This is very sad. It is really harsh to hear that such basic rights for women are yet to be accomplished in Iran. Coming back to your video, you mentioned that your life has changed when you arrived in Belgium. So, my question is, how has it changed?

S: Well, I found that living in Belgium compared to Iran is less stressful. Women have an important position in society, and being as a mother is well-described. Here, I could decide alone without others' interference.  For example, if I prefer to live alone or with my family, and in fact in Iran, it is so difficult to decide alone. As I said before, you are needing always one man to support your idea and confirm your final decision. For instance, if you want to marry somebody, so your father must agree. Or if you desire to travel abroad, you will need either your father's permission or your husband's, in case you are married. I think here women know well their role and how their decision will be respected. In Europe, you have this possibility to live with your partner or with whom you are in love. However, in Iran it's so, rarely we don't have it. It's not welcome, so that people first marry and after some time, well, they face different problems. Even if they are in relation, but they can't leave before. It happens maybe in a few families, but not in all.

G: This must have been a huge and positive change for you, but of course we need to consider that it is always tiring and challenging to adapt yourself to a new mentality and to a new culture, even though it is more liberating than the one existing in the country you come from.

As a last question, I want to refer to your video again, where you send lots of empowering messages to girls and women to fight for their dreams. If you could give advice to women and girls in Iran to overcome gender barriers, what would you recommend?

S: One of my favorite words is 'No', because it helped me a lot just to refuse whatever I didn't like to do or doesn't seem, to me, logical. But I encourage women to learn other languages and other cultures, you know, because to me it's the most important key to communicate with outside of Iran. And I know that living in Iran as a woman is not enough easy, and that's because men can easily profit from the rules against women.

G: Well, 'No' sounds a very appropriate and powerful word, to me, for women to use in this context, and in many other circumstances. Also, I do agree with you that speaking new languages opens up new horizons for everyone.

Coming to the end of this episode, we want to thank Sarah for this interesting talk, which has led us to know a little bit more about her, her life experience, and the situation of girls and women in Iran. So, thank you once again.

S: Thank you. Bye bye.

G: And, we'll be back soon with another episode. Keep an eye open for the next one.

Transcription: Andru Shively (VUB)

Average: 4 (1 vote)

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