Iranian Women in Madison Unite to Support Girl's Education
By Saba Jamshidi, Global Connect Blogger
For nearly a year, a group of Iranian-American women in Madison, WI gather together on the third Sunday of each month to talk about their favorite social issues and eat their favorite tasty Persian treats.
During these meetings, they seek to inform, empower and motivate each other to think beyond their personal boundaries.
The idea for these ‘food for thoughts and souls’, in its potluck format, came to Maryam Soltani, a teacher, last summer.
“Iranian women are the most active women in their societies both in Iran and in the U.S.,” Soltani says. “Many of the women I know here are very bright women who felt about what is happening in Iran.”
So Soltani says she wanted to devise a way to pick their brains to learn about their points of view on social issues and to create a sphere where women can participate and share thoughts.
I knew Soltani from a few Iranian parties I attended in Madison. When I recently bumped into her at the Costcot Wholesale store she was touching her iphone anxiously. After the usual Iranian exchange, she explained that she was attempting to secure a room in the local library for the group’s next meeting. “I think we are going to discuss the Dressmakers of Khair Khana,” she said.
“I had read books about Afghanistan before,” Soltani told me later. “You never see any active women in Afghanistan. But this book is a real story of a few successful women in Afghanistan.”
Books like author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s Dressmaker, and women’s group’s like Soltani’s make conversations about women’s rights more common and acceptable, says Ladan Mostaghimi, an Iranian-American psychiatrist and dermatologist at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals. “When I go home and tell my kids that as a woman, when you grow up, you should have the same rights, you shouldn’t settle down for anything less just because you are a women, I am creating a base to challenge something that needs to be challenged,” Mostaghimi says.
In last weeks meeting, Soltani and the other women moved from discussing the Dressmaker of Khair Khana to other books like, Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family and The Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep them Safe. Then the conversation shifted to more personal stories of struggle and oppression in Iran. The women discussed the importance of educating girls, funding girl’s education and even the importance of fighting religious extremism.
By the end of the meeting Soltani says the women proposed a unilateral verdict among their group – “Education for girls is a necessity.”