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Mahnaz Afkhami

(Iran – United States)

Mahnaz Afkhami is founder and President of the Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), an international women’s organization in consultative status with UNECOSOC that empowers grassroots women to become leaders in politics, business, and civil society; Executive Director of the Foundation for Iranian Studies. Prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran, she was Minister for Women’s Affairs and Secretary General of the Women’s Organization of Iran, chair of the English Department and taught literature at the National University of Iran, where she founded and the Association of University Women.

As Minister for Women’s Affairs, Afkhami played a key role in passage of the progressive 1975 Family Law in Iran and the establishment of United Nation’s Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (APCWD) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). She has led numerous task forces and lectured on democratization, leadership, civil society-building, and women’s human rights including multinational delegations to the UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna (1993) and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). Her publications include Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation; Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women’s Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies; Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World: In the Eye of the Storm: Women and the Law in Iran; Women in Post-revolutionary Iran: and Women in Exile; and Towards a Compassionate Society. She has co-authored several that have been translated into twenty languages, including Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women; Leading to Action: A Political Participation Handbook for Women; Victories Over Violence: Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls; and Beyond Equality: A Manual for Human Rights Defenders.

Afkhami serves on the boards and steering committees of the Freer/Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution, the Advisory Committee on Women, the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, and the Foundation for Iranian Studies. From 2000-2014, she served as Chair of the Global Council at the International Museum of Women.