New Dal scholarship will help Iranian women struggling under oppression

- April 5, 2023

People protest Iran's repression of women in London, England last month. (Tim Dennell photo/Flickr)
People protest Iran's repression of women in London, England last month. (Tim Dennell photo/Flickr)

On September 13, 2022, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s requirement that women cover their hair with a hijab or headscarf. Amini died in police custody, and it was reported that she had been beaten with a baton. The incident sparked widespread protests and civil unrest calling for rights and freedoms for women.

Six months later, the protests are still happening every day.

Though the bravery of protesters in Iran has largely stopped making news here in Canada, Hamed Aghakhani, an associate professor of marketing in the Rowe School of Business, says that we need to show the women of Iran and their supporters that we value their voices.

“Women in Iran are chanting for freedom, yet the rights they seek merely encompass the fundamental freedoms they currently lack,” says Dr. Aghakhani. “And, although we are far away from them, we need to show them that we support them and are part of their community.”

Opportunities through education

How can we support this vital cause from afar? By offering a safe place for Iranian women and persons of equity-deserving gender identities to continue their studies and work on their goals.

Dr. Aghakhani along with support from the Iranian community here in Nova Scotia recently founded the Woman, Life, Freedom Scholarship to support this group as they enter or continue their studies in graduate programs at Dalhousie University.

At Iran’s universities, approximately 60 per cent of students are women but systemic discrimination means that once they graduate, opportunities are very limited — women make up just 15 per cent of Iran’s workforce.

Dr. Aghakhani says that much of the frontline work on this movement is being carried out by the same group that faces such discrimination, and by helping them we can work towards closing the gender gap, and hopefully — whether that be in a matter of years, or generations — empower them to advance human rights in Iran.

Giving graduates opportunities at Dalhousie will ultimately benefit Canada greatly, Dr. Aghakhani says.

“By supporting them and offering them a brighter future here, these women may become future social activists, doctors, or engineers, thus, the assistance we give may ultimately benefit our Canadian communities,” he says.

Supported by members of the Iranian community in Nova Scotia, Woman, Life, Freedom Scholarship hopes to help as many Iranian women and other Iranian equity-deserving gender identities as possible.

“We’re hoping to keep this running as long as we can. It’s our way of supporting this movement, and keeping it on people’s minds,” says Dr. Aghakhani.

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Raising and matching funds

The initial goal of the Woman, Life, Freedom Scholarship is to raise at least $30,000. Dr. Aghakhani is hopeful that this goal will be exceeded with the support of not only the Iranian community but all who want to create better opportunities for women.

“It isn’t just about helping this subset of people; rather, it’s about our ability to safeguard women’s rights in nations beyond Canada’s borders,” he says.

Tax receipts will be issued for any donations, and Dalhousie’s Office of Advancement is matching gifts from individuals up to $10,000 which will double the impact that donors will have. The situation in Iran has not improved, though its citizens are fighting every day in the hope that it will. Help us to show that we care about the values they are fighting for by donating to this important fund.

How you can help

Donate online now.

Or, if you would like more information on this campaign, please contact Venna Penney at Cheques can be sent to the Office of Advancement, 6389 Coburg Road, PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 2A5.


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