On Friday, Dr. Roksana Bahramitash shared her insights and experiences with Concordia’s Women’s Studies department concerning the empowerment of rural Iranian women through the micro credit.
Students from Concordia and McGill, and teachers from various academic institutions listened to Dr. Bahramitash’s seminar, Empowering Rural Iranian Women through Micro Credit: Dealing with Drug Trafficking and Arms smuggling from Afghanistan. Bahramitash spoke about the brave women of Iran who struggle daily to raise their families without relying on drugs for income.
According to Bahramitash, since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the border between Iran and Afghanistan has been all but erased, opening it up to heavy drugs and arms trafficking.
“I liked the Taliban because I knew I was safe,” one Afghan girl told the doctor of sociology, “I don’t know that I am safe anymore”
Bahramitash said the women in these areas travel from village to village recruiting others who are ready to pool their funds to apply for micro credit loans. They then use these loans to establish small businesses, many of them in the clothing industry.
Micro credit is often given to women because banks know they are more likely to pay back the loansthan men are. Bahramitash said the micro credit loans are bitter sweet because “Iranian women sometimes wait as long as three years to receive a meagre loan of $80.” Women who fail to set up a successful business are then blamed for their poverty.
Upon her arrival in the area, Bahramitash realized the women thought she was from the United Nations (UN) and was going to help them receive more money and help. However, once they discovered that she was not with the UN, the women were bitterly disappointed.
“These women left me with their stories and I couldn’t do anything about it.” Bahramitash said. “The only thing I can do is share their stories and wear their clothes.”
Bahramitash stood up and spun, showing off the intricate embroidery on her tunic and trousers. She aspires to approach the fashion industry in North America with samples of their handiwork in hopes of importing the goods.
Bahramitash has won several awards for her work including one from the Canadian Social Science and Human Research Council (SSHRC) to work on Globalization, Islamization and women’s economic role in Egypt, Turkey and Iran. She also received an award by the SSHRC for her work on the issue of female poverty.
Bahramitash received her PhD from McGill University in sociology and has been teaching various courses at both McGill and Concordia. She has worked with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Indonesia on women’s employment and Islamization. In some post-doctoral research she has also worked on globalization within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).