Women's Organization of Iran (WOI)

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Iranian women's activist organization.

The Women's Organization of Iran (WOI) emerged in 1966, reflecting decades of Iranian women's activism. During the 1950s, as their awareness of progress elsewhere grew, Iranian women formed numerous organizations and sought the right to vote. Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the shah's sister, bolstered these organizations, forming a committee in 1959 to prepare the articles of association for the High Council of Women's Organizations in Iran. An umbrella group, the high council coordinated the election of a 5,000-member assembly of women representatives approving the WOI's charter on 19 November 1966 in Tehran. A nonprofit institution run mostly by volunteers, the WOI had local branches receiving charitable donations and benefited from national fundraising. By 1975, the International Year of the Woman, the WOI had established 349 branches, 120 women's centers, and a center for research. The centers provided literacy classes and vocational training, family-planning information, and legal advice. The WOI supported the international feminist movement, formulating a national plan of action that resembled the United Nations General Assembly's World Plan of Action. Although anxious to avoid conflict with the religious authorities, the WOI with its successes nevertheless alienated senior clerics. Ironically, the political awareness gained through WOI projects enabled increased and effective women's participation in the Islamic revolution, which ultimately undid the WOI.

see also iranian revolution (1979); pahlavi, mohammad reza.


Afary, Janet. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 19061911: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins of Feminism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Afkhami, Mahnaz. "The Women's Organization of Iran: Evolutionary Politics and Revolutionary Change." 2003.

Najmabadi, Afsaneh. "Hazards of Modernity and Morality: Women, State and Ideology in Contemporary Iran." In Women, Islam, and the State, edited by Deniz Kandiyoti. Philadelphia: Temple University Press; London: Macmillan, 1991.

Nashat, Guity, ed. Women and Revolution in Iran. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983.

Paidar, Parvin. Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran. New York and Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

haleh vaziri

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Women's Organization of Iran (WOI)

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Women's Organization of Iran (WOI)