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Dec 10, 2020


In Episode 1 of Series 6, Todd is talking with Dr. Nina Ansary an award-winning Iranian-American author, historian, and women's rights advocate. Nina is the UN Women Global Champion for Innovation and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace & Security, and author of Anonymous Is a Woman: A Global Chronicle of Gender Inequality. They discuss the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on womens rights and on the citizens of Iran. 

 00.00 - 05.06  

Todd begins by asking Nina for her reflections on the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on Iran. She comments that: 

  • Covid 19 has served to exacerbate existing economic problems and far from supporting the population the regime has continued its crackdown on advocates for freedom and closer ties with the West 
  • The health service is under severe strain not helped by the impact of sanctions resulting in shortages of medical equipment and medicines 
  • Overall Iranians now feel more isolated than ever 
  • While there are numerous organisations engaged in lobbying on human rights issues the international community could do more 
  • The impact of Covid 19 has pushed human rights issues to the background 

05.06 06.55 

Todd moves on to ask Nina for her take on the existing nuclear power deal and US sanctions.  

She argues that while the sanctions are not the cause of Irans economic difficulties they have accelerated the impact of economic mismanagement and corruption, which has fallen on the people and not the regime or its leaders.  

 06.55 11.05  

The discussion moves onto the impact of Covid 19 on womens rights. Prior to the pandemic, Nina says:  

  • The advancement of womens rights was moving at a glacial pace. 
  • Discrimination was present in a wide range of economic and political activity 
  • Stereotyping of women was commonplace 

The effect of the pandemic has been to exacerbate inequalities, expose vulnerabilities, encourage discriminatory practices, and set back the advancement of womens rights, in particular those who are most vulnerable and those who are marginalised. Nina notes that women have been losing employment at a disproportionate rate as a result of Covid 19. She concludes by referencing the Beijing World Conference on Women 1995 and the lack of progress made since then.  

11.05 15.05  

When asked about the impact of the pandemic on women in the USA Nina refers to existing reforms which have been too narrow and the need to move beyond the reforms of the past to create a more equitable future. Todd then asks whether Nina foresees a move to resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment in the USA (ERA).   

In reply she points out that women in the USA are not united around this topic and that even within the ERA movement there was/is a tendency to fragment into different groups which is a limiting factor and an obstacle to reform. 

15.05 19.40 

Todd moves on to discuss Ninas work at the U.N. Appointed as a Global champion for innovation in 2019.  Her focus is to drive transformational change by, 

  • Creating more opportunities for women and girls especially in technology and entrepreneurship 
  • Raising awareness of barriers to progress 
  • Highlighting women who have made significant contributions in those fields which have been overlooked downplayed or ignored. Nina refers to Dr. Jessica Wade who been challenging theses stereotyped b posting the names of women who have made significant contributions in the field of science. 
  • Working towards equality in participation, representation and opportunity in those fields 
  • Discrimination and stereotyping which serve to hold women back. Here she references the infamous post by Google engineer James Damores, whose internal memo suggested that women were biologically less capable of working in the fields of science and technology  

19.40 21.25  

Todd wonders whether it is time for a feminising of the curriculum in line with the decolonising the curriculum movement. Nina refers to gender mainstreaming as a major tool in moving away from entrenches stereotypes and unequal trajectories of development.   

21.25 end  

Todd brings the discussion full circle by asking for Ninas thoughts on the current situation in Iran and to comment on the motivations of the state in its crackdown on women activists. Nina describes a regime that feels threatened by powerful women and enacts discriminatory policies in law as a means of enacting coercive control over women. 

  • She cites the example of the incarceration of a prominent lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh for representing womens rights activists 
  • In this way women are being denied access to legal defence by the state 
  • Far from addressing what she sees to be the legitimate concerns of the Iranian people, instead, the regime is expending large sums on religious endowments and the funding of foreign terrorist organisations 

Additional references 

Impact of COVID on Iran