Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Former Government Minister and Women’s Rights Campaigner
Hijri 1359-Present (AH); Common Era 1941-Present (CE)
Born in 1941 in Kerman, Iran, Mahnaz Afkhami has played an important role in campaigning for the rights of Iranian women. After her parents’ separation, Mahnaz moved with her sister and her mother to the United States, where she spent her late teens and college years attending San Francisco State University. After completing her undergraduate education, she earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado. She subsequently returned to Iran in the late 1960s to become a professor and then chair of the English Department at the National University of Iran in Tehran. During the next decade, Mahnaz founded the Association of Iranian University Women and served as the secretary general of the Women’s Organization of Iran. From 1976 to 1978, she served as Minister of Women’s Affairs, one of the last two women to occupy major political positions before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Though Mahnaz was forced into exile by the political turmoil, she has remained an active women’s rights advocate. She helped found and continues to serve as president of the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace. The organization is a network of organizations operating in the Global South, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, that together implement programs to protect human rights, to facilitate sustainable development, and to promote peace.1 She was formerly the president of Sisterhood Is Global Institute. Mahnaz has also written extensively and lectured on the international women’s rights movement and the role of women in civil society-building and democratization. Some titles include: Toward a Compassionate Society (2002), Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation (1997), and Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women’s Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies (1996).  “What We Do,” Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace.