shifting the discrimination to the other side is not the solution...
My personal story regarding education is unusual yet has many common faces: I had access to education at all different levels as a very young woman. My parents, especially my father, were very enthusiastic about my education and my father’s motto was to provide for me for the rest of his life so I can continue my education as long as I want.
However, there was a sub-line to his motto: I can continue my education as long as I want, "in the field that he would approve of!"
And that’s the story of me and many other young women in my community, and it is not just at the family level but also the society which is also reflected in our laws and constitution. The community in which I grow up is a clear example of patriarchal society: the norms are based around the values that are associated to and defined by men and masculinity. The gender roles are internalized through the education that is available at primary and secondary level . The professional roles are also divided accordingly: men are the constructors and women are the maintainers. As an example, men are encouraged to be doctors whereas women are streamed to become nurses!
Therefore, I believe the biggest challenge is the existing internalized norms and values within the community for the young women to access education that they want.
There has been tremendous effort by the women’s right activists to overcome these barriers; since about 10 years ago the number of women participating in the entrance exam of the universities has been more than half of the total number of participants. Although this shows a great improvement on the status of women, I personally see problems with this imbalance: before we had uneducated women and now we will have uneducated men! Shifting the discrimination and imbalance does not necessarily solve the problem. The government applied the rule of 50-50 meaning that there should be a balance in the universities; this rule would have been acceptable if it was applied in all other areas of participation: at the job market, at the parliament, at the governmental positions and so on. Nevertheless, the 50-50 rule was only applied to gradually eliminate the participation of women in the higher education institutes. Since 2009 there have been clear cut downs in the number of fields and faculties that women can participate. The ministry of Foreign Affairs of United States has recently published an article about assess to education in Iran.
There have been several campaigns and petitions against this discrimination; there have been also attempts from diaspora to overcome these barriers by offering the education that Iranian Youth has been denied access to by providing online courses and education. One of these platforms is called Iran Academia (www.iran-academia.com), an institute for social sciences and humanities. Here you can watch a promotional video of their work.