Two Generations Working Side-by-Side to Collect Signatures
By: Maryam Malek
Tuesday 28 April 2009
Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi
Along with several friends from the Campaign I attended a seminar at Tehran University in honor of March 8th, International Women’s Day. Like always, I was listening to the various speakers and trying to write a report on the event for the site of Change for Equality. I had never engaged in signature collection in support of the Campaign while trying to write a report, but this time was different and I must say a very good experience.
When the conference broke for lunch, Nasrin, Niloofar, Mahboubeh and I began talking with the students. We gave them booklets on the Campaign. Nasim kept warning us to be careful. She was nervous about the Campus Security and kept saying if they find out you are collecting signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition, they will shut down the seminar. Within a half hour, we had collected 100 signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition. The students were very receptive. Women’s rights had hit home for them, because as it happened there was heated discussion on the policy of placing quotas on entrance of female students into university. The students kept insisting that we should do something to object to this policy, and we kept explaining that there was also a petition going around which objected to the policy of quotas for female university students.
Except for a young man who kept insisting that he did not agree with the policies of the Campaign, and that the Campaign’s approach was not in line with his own political beliefs, almost all those we approached signed the petition. Many explained that they had already signed. We ate lunch and returned to the seminar. Nasrin tried to convince Maryam Behroozi a conservative female member of parliament who was a speaker at the seminar to sign the petition, to no avail. Her explanations about the need to change the laws and the Campaign weren’t convincing for Behroozi. Despite the fact that Maryam Behroozi insisted that she believed in women’s rights, she kept citing excuses and stressed that she did not believe in the Campaign.
Once the seminar was over we headed toward the exit. On our way out, we were served fruit juice by a young man and woman, who were at the seminar to advertise their brand of fruit juice. After drinking the juice, we began explaining the Campaign for the two of them.
"You are so full of energy and enthusiastic," the young woman exclaimed. "Just seeing you gives me energy." The young woman thanked us and we bid her farewell. On our way out of the University we stopped at Campus Security and began discussing the Campaign with the Security personnel there. We were surprised to find that the Security staff members were actually very informed on the legal situation of women and the legal problems they faced, but they didn’t sign our petition and warned us that we should leave the Campus quickly, otherwise….Laughing we left the Security office quickly.
The experience of that day was unique and taught me several things, which had been addressed in our training workshops as well. First, that when collecting signatures one should always be enthusiastic and full of energy. Second, when two generations of Campaign activists join forces in signature collection people tend to respond better. In fact, when we collect signatures with activists who are older and have more experience, seeing two generations of women side-by-side, working toward the same goal, people tend to trust the Campaign more and feel more comfortable connecting with us.
There are mothers involved in Campaign, like Khadijeh, Nasrin and others who are very dear to us all. They bring their experience to the Campaign and the younger generation benefits from that experience, allowing us to work with greater hope toward our common goals.
Note: Maryam Malek is currently in prison due to charges in relation to her activities in the Campaign. Read the news about Maryam’s arrest.