By Staff Writer
Female heads of household in Iran have become significantly younger, according to a women’s rights activist.
Zohreh Ashtiani, who is secretary of the Family Faction of the mullahs’ parliament (Majlis), admitted in an interview with the state-run Shahrvand newspaper on Tuesday that 16% of female heads of household are younger than 20.
However, this number could actually be even higher as this figure, from Iran’s Welfare Organization and the Relief Committee, only accounts for women “who have been identified or have introduced themselves to support centres”.
According to the statistics, there are just over 3 million female heads of household in Iran and about 500,000 of these women are under the age of 20. The number of female heads of household has risen by just over 600,000 in the past ten years, now equating to 12% of all household in Iran.
The main reason for the growth in female heads of households, particularly for younger women, is poverty according to Ashtiani.
She said: “Poverty drives the head of household towards addiction and when the husband is in jail or just at home (due to addiction), the woman has to undertake the responsibility (of heading and running the family). In other cases, poverty leads to divorce especially among younger women which in turn leads to more young women heads of household.”
One thing to take into account is that many young girls (under the age of 15) are victims of compulsory marriages, which then lead to divorce later on.
Ashtiani advised that the female heads of household need proper support in order to prevent the cycle from continuing, particularly as younger women may not be as able to be the family breadwinner and their families may end up on the poverty line more quickly.
She said that this has been a recurring problem for at least 35 years, which the Regime has failed to fix because their focus has been on other less important issues.
Ashtiani said: “There was a 39% cut in the budget allocated to women heads of household in this year’s budget (the Iranian fiscal year 1397), while the budget of some other so-called cultural agencies has doubled or remained the same.”
One of the “cultural” activities that have received funding stolen from protecting these women is the Week of Chastity and Veil, which launched on July 10 in all 31 Iranian provinces. This was likely a response to the growing female protests against the mandatory hijab law in Iran, for which three women have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.