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His proposals received a strong opposition from the side of the religious leaders who were dissatisfied both with the fact that women were given the right to vote and the land reforms (idem).
After Khomeini was sent into exile, the shah's leadership, greatly supported by the U.S., became dictatorial. By choosing to put the country under an authoritarian regime with little or no real opposition, Mohammad-Reza Shah, like his father, almost a quarter of a century ago, signed his own end as a leader of Iran. Some of the reforms made during those years were restoring women's rights. The Family Protection Law, passed in 1967, brought women's issues related to marriage and divorce closer to the laws of the civilized world. but, the Shah was too much obsessed with building a huge military power, proving himself to the U.S. As the pillar of stabilization in the Middle East.
Iranian women had gained the right to vote and extended rights in marriage, and the custody of their children, but they still had a long way to go until reaching full equal rights and equal treatment. The situation in women employment had improved compared to that before the Pahlavi dynasty: 13.8% of total workers in Iran were women in 1976. The overwhelming majority of them, 84%, were employed in the lower ranks of the working forces, almost half of them counting as family workers who were unpaid (Nu-m"n," Behdad, 2006). Seven years after the revolution, their number dropped to 8.9% of the total workforce, but it doubled ten years later, reaching 12.1% in 1996 (idem). By 1986, the women who could afford higher education levels increased the upper working ranks, while the number of women working in unskilled jobs dropped. One of the causes for these fluctuations was the economic difficulties the country went through, such as a high rate of unemployment and inflation. Economic measures such as the ban on the export of woven carpets hit particularly the rural female working force.
During the Iranian Revolution, in 1979, followed by the declaration of independence, women were strong supporters of those who opposed the shah and his pro-American policies. Starting with 1979, the position of women in the public sphere changed. The spiritual and religious leaders were strongly supported by the traditional middle class that that had always promoted a restriction in rights for the women. The gender politics took women a step back.
Whereas the literacy in the case of Iranian women living in urban areas reaches a level of 82%, the situation for the women in the countryside is much worse. Only 62% of the women in the rural areas are literate. As previously shown, the large variation in forms of relief in a country that spreads over 1.636 million sq km (CIA factbook), makes transportation difficult even in modern times, especially for those who live in remote rural areas.
The traditional view on women encourages them to spend as much time out of the public sphere as possible and remain completely dependent on the men in their families. Only the women who were the only providers for the their families were considered motivated and socially accepted to work outside their homes. The majority of these women were working low skilled jobs, in factories or on the farms. Their intellectual and cultural development was reduced to a minimum both from the point-of-view of time and resources.
Times have changed though since 1979. An article's title published in 2006 by BBC news reads: "The number of women graduating from Iran's universities is overtaking the number of men, promising a change in the job market and, with it, profound social change" (BBC News). Fields of education that traditionally belonged to men, even in secular societies, were taken over by women in Iran at the dawn of the new millennium. More than half of the students at the Islamic Azad University in Teheran are women. Well over half of university students in Iran are now women. In the applied physics department of Azad University 70% of the graduates are women - a statistic which would make many universities in the West proud. It is a huge social shift since the 1979 Revolution: Iran's Islamic government has managed to convince even traditional rural families that it is safe to send their daughters away from home to study (BBC News).
The increase in the number of women acquiring higher levels of education and diplomas as skilled laborers produces a change in the number of women employed in the higher ranks of working force. Under the Islamic law, Iranian women need their husband's agreement to go to work outside their homes. The young women that are now graduating in Iran have broadened their views and their mentality when it comes to gender roles has suffered a tremendous change than those their parents used to have a few decades ago. They will postpone marriage until they find a husband who will fit their need to play an active role in society, making what once used to be a top priority for a girl: marriage, building a family, a matter of secondary importance to them. The attitude towards single working women who live alone or even toward working mothers is likely to change in Iran because women seized the opportunity to get educated while their male counterparts prefer to get out of school at an earlier age and start "making money."
Our men are coming out of this macho shell and becoming more co-operative," says a young married student" (BBC News).
Recently, studies have shown that although women succeeded to overcome men in the number of university enrollment, their labor enforcement is lagging behind that of men. Brookings Institute was publishing in March 2008 the results of a study on the number of women students in Iran vs. men, conducted by Iran's Parliamentary (Majles) Research Center. The researchers along with the traditional side of the Iranian society expressed their concerns regarding the female students who after graduation are not expected to follow any carrier outside their homes, taking thus away important places in the universities that should be occupied by men who will use their diplomas to enter the production field. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani provides data that leads her to the conclusion that the current general trend of the number of women over passing that of menin post secondary school occurrs in many other Islamic countries along with Iran.
The trend toward "feminization" of higher education is a normal consequence of economic development and is not monotonic. To illustrate this point, in Figure 1, I plot the ratio of women to men in post-secondary education against per capita income for a sample of 136 countries. As the fitted curve clearly shows, the ratio rises with incomes but peaks at about 150, before falling (the fitted curve excludes the few outlier observations greater that 200) (Salehi-Isfahani).
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