work of Women's NGOs of the I.R.I



Campaigning the poverty is one of the oldest challenges of religious, social and economic

leaders of Iran and the Islamic World. One of the main characteristics of the

religious leaders in Iran has been addressing the problems of poor and needy and

the orphans’ families. Therefore, eradication of poverty has been among one of the

main responsibilities of citizens and the Islamic public and people have always felt

responsible in this campaign.

The charity funds are the most traditional methods of Islamic banking in Iran. These

charity have been established to fill in the economic gaps between the rich and the

poor. Bribing and bribe is considered among the ugliest deeds of the human world

which deepens the economic gaps and is a sin and those people involved in this

bribing are hated by the public.

Principle of consideration about the poor has been among the shop owners and

traders of this country since very long ago. They have always been willing to fight

against poverty and also to support vulnerable groups of women and children.

Helping the poor has been among the first and oldest responsibilities of traditional

funding and charities. The Non-governmental organizations have also based their

activities on the experiences of these charities and funding.

Since that time, women have been in the management of these organizations which

are responsible for the poor. They have had a great role by sitting in the religious

ceremonies organized for women.

The Islamic Revolution has given special attention to the poor and the needy and

has set this campaign as one of the basic points of politics. It has also given priority

to women and children who need special attention.

Imam Khomeini, the great leader of the Islamic Revolution, has always said in his

speeches that this Revolution belongs to the poor and has always advised the authorities

to take more care about the needy.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Article 3

9. The abolition of all forms of undesirable discrimination and the provision of equitable

opportunities for all, in both the material and intellectual spheres.

Article 21

4. The provision of special insurance for widows, and aged women and women

without support.

20 years vision of the country:

Iran in 1403 will be a healthy society with welfare enjoying food security, social

security, equal opportunities, proper distribution of income, family stability, free of

poverty, corruption and discrimination and having a pleasant living environment.

Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities

108. Right to benefit from social security and economic facilities.

97. Right of women and girls to enjoy necessary support in case of poverty, divorce,

disability, absence of guardian or unqualified guardian, and preparing facilities for

their rehabilitation and self- sufficiency.

6. Right to enjoy social justice in enforcement of law regardless of gender.

18. Right to enjoy family facilities, without discrimination between boys and girls.

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Current Situation and Achievements




Creating Jobs

Gender discrimination and unequal opportunities for women in having access to

general training, employment and income and public health are among the factors

that cause more poverty among women.

As you see in table 1, the activity rate in the country has increased from 35 percent

in 1996 to 38 percent in 2004. This increase for women has been from 9 to 12 percent.

But the most important point is that the rate of employment among women has

decreased in the above period. According to statistics, from 1996 to 2004, one percent

of the rate of employment has mitigated out of which 0.5 percent has been for

men and 2.5 for women. In other words, the rate of unemployment for women has

been 14 percent in 1996 whereas it is 17 percent in 2004.

The main purpose of increase in unemployment is the large number of active population

of the country. In 1996, those who had been born after the Revolution had

not yet reached the legal age of 15 years therefore the rate of unemployment was 9

percent but in the years 2001 and 2004 the rate of unemployment was more than the

rate in 1996 although double working opportunities were created. The most important

point of a reduction of 3 percent in unemployment from 2001 to 2004 has been

along with the rapid growth of active population. But as it was said before the

reduction rate of unemployment has been only for men and the rate of unemployment

for women from 14 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2001 and 17.1 percent in

2004. The main point in the increase of unemployment among women is the

increase of academic education among women and their ambition to find a job

because women who have more education and have spent more expenses for training

are trying more to find a job.

Although the government has tried to reduce the unemployment rate for both men

and women, women have limitations in working in hard conditions or in industrial

regions far from their living place, and therefore such limitations have increased the

unemployment rate among them. Lack of employment for women has increased

their social problems, leading to increased poverty among them.

Institutions to support the poor

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the necessity for supporting the disadvantaged and

poor has been always the most important issue right from the beginning of the

Revolution and some institutions such as Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation was

established to help the families.

In 1992, 962,000 families who had disabled or old head of family were supported

permanently out of which half of them (425,000) were women headed families. The

amount of salary given to them in 1992 was 283103 million Rials and the amount

given to women headed families was 95999 million Rials. In 2002, the families

being supported increased by 50 percent and reached 1.5 million people out of

which half of them were women headed families. The amount given to these fami-

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lies in the same year was 3051109 million Rials which were 11 times more than the

rate in 1992.

In Iran, although the education is free of charge but still some of the people in the

society need to be supported for education. In the years 2002-2003 more than one

million students were supported out of which 48.5 percent were girls.

Also the number of those being supported by the government to enter the university

or religious schools has increased during the recent years. The number of 4000

people in 1992-3 has increased to 20,000 in 2002-3.

The number of female students being covered has been 16 percent in 1992-3 and 47

percent in 1996-7 and 56 percent in 2002-3 which shows a remarkable increase

among girls to attend university and religious schools.

Developing income resources

In the recent years, billions Rials of loan has been given to individuals and the

workshop owners in various fields such as agriculture to held the development of

economy in the country. For example, the loans given to the vulnerable rural women

headed families as follows:

According to a project in Agricultural bank with the cooperation of Imam Khomeini

Relief Foundation, a loan will be given to rural women headed households to work

in agricultural, husbandry, carpet weaving, jajim (rug) weaving, sewing and

embroidering and handicrafts and etc. and on the basis of this project, 8924 rural

women headed households were covered and 17 billion Rials of loan was paid to

them. In 2002, the loan has been given to 2252 families with the amount of more

than 5 billion Rials.

Provision of financial self-sufficiency

In the whole country, there are certain loans to activate the companies and producing

institutions and real entities. In the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, these

loans are given to disadvantaged people as loans or the facilities for self-sufficiency.

The main goal of these facilities is to create self-sufficiency attitude and the

increased interest to work and non-reliance on others.

In 2002, 165162 people with the population of 772244 individuals have been covered

by self-sufficiency programmes. The number of these families is two times

more than the number in 1998. Out of 165162 families, 51733 families were women

headed households. Also in 2002, more than 6000 families with the self-sufficiency

facilities, 1563 families with the employment of head of family and 1284 families

have reached the self-sufficiency stage and do not need the money any more.

The families being supported by self-reliance programs are two times more in 2002

compared to the year 1998.

Employment Facilities

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the governmental and private sectors, there are

centers for technical trainings and also job finding. Unemployed people refer to

these centers and get the necessary training or find a job. The Imam Khomeini

Relief Foundation gives training to those poor men and women and provides them

with a job.

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In 2002, 63743 individuals were given technical and job training out of which 40

percent were women. The number of those being trained in 2002 has been 10 times

more than those in 1998. Also in 2002, 8340 poor people have been introduced for

jobs out of which more than 52 percent were women.

Institutions supporting the poor and needy such as Imam Khomeini Relief

Foundation identify the poor women and cover them. As mentioned in table 5, in

2002 more than 25,000 needy women received technical and job trainings and the

number is 9 times more than in 1998. Also in 2002, 4341 women were introduced

to job finding centers and have found jobs.

Access to Housing

The provision of housing as a shelter and secure place is one of the most important

concerns of the human societies. This hope is out of reach for poor and needy people.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Housing Foundation and Imam Khomeini

Relief Foundation are active in this field.

For example, in 2002, 154 billion Rials has been spent for constructing, repairing,

purchasing of houses for needed families specially those women headed ones. For

this purpose, 88.5 billion Rials have been spent to build 6342 units of houses and

26 billion Rials was spent for repairing 22709 houses. The amount spent for the

housing for needed people has been 1.6 times more in 2002 compared to the year


Gender Poverty Indicators

In order to study the indicators related to poverty, we will study the indicators in

1993 and 2002 and compare them together. Since the number of women headed

households are very few but they are half of the society and are a good sample of

poverty, therefore the indicators can be effective on them too.

In these tables, the data provided by the Statistics Center of Iran has been used. The

indicators for the families who have the least expenses have been compared in 10

groups. According to table 6, the average of number of families in urban areas in

1993 has been 4.9 individuals and this ratio in the families with the lowest group of

expenses has been 2.2 individuals. In families with the lowest group of expenses in

2 families, only one individual has been working. The average of employed people

in each family has been only 0.5 persons in 1993. This figure has reached 0.6 in

2002. In the rural families having the lowest group of expenses, the average of individuals

in 1993 has been 2.8 individuals, only 0.7 people have been employed. This

figure has reduced to 0.5 percent in 2002. In other words, in 1993 and 2002, among

45 to 63 percent of the families having the least expenses, had no employed individual.

The ratio of employed individuals in the sample families in urban and rural areas

have increased a bit but this increase has not been seen among families having the

least income and those who are the poorest individuals of the society.

Education in Poor Families

In 1993 out of 4.9 individuals living in an urban family, ¾ Individuals were educated.

This ratio for families with the minimum income with 2.2 family members only

one was educated. In 2003, although the number of family members decreased to

4.4 individuals per family, the number of ¾ of educated individuals remained the

same. But in rural areas, the average of educated individuals in the family was 2.9

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of the Islamic Republic of Iran

out of 5.5 individuals in 1993. In 2002, this ratio was ¾ out of 4.4 individuals and

in the families with minimum income the number has been 0.7 out of 2.2. In the

years 1993 and 2002, 53 and 41 percent of urban families set as sample and 58 and

67 percent of rural families taken, as sample with minimum income had no educated

one in the family.

Female headed households

In 1993 more than 80 percent of urban head of families in the society were

employed. This number has been 36 percent among the families with minimum


In all families, 12 percent had income without having a job. This number has been

31 percent among the families with minimum income. The ratio of employed individuals

in families with minimum income has been 36 percent in 1993 whereas it

has increased to 46 percent in 2002. The ratio of individuals without having a job

has increased from 31 to 37 percent. This ratio for rural families has been 51 and 26

percent in 1993 and 33 and 55 percent in 2002.

In the years 1993 to 2002, the ratio of employed individuals in urban families with

minimum income has increased but this number has decreased in rural families. But

the ratio of individuals having income with having a job who probably receive

salary from the Relief Foundations, Welfare Organization and Foundation of

Janbazan (the Disabled) has increased in rural and urban families.

Level of education in families

In 1993, 69 percent of urban families and 83 percent of rural families having the

minimum income are uneducated. This number has had a 59 percent decrease in

2002 for urban families and a 85 percent increase in rural families. The rate of uneducated

head of families in 2002 in urban and rural families has decreased.

These numbers show that the education of head of family and his income have a

proper balance together. In families having the minimum income whose heads have

lower level of education, the income is also low.

Methods of occupation of houses (ownership)

In 1993 most of the families own their houses. In families with minimum income,

this ratio was lower than the average of all families. In 2002, about 55 percent of

the urban families and 85 percent of rural families had the least possibility of ownership

and this shows an increase comparing the year 1993.

Also in 2002, about 17 percent of urban families and 12 percent of rural families

having minimum income were living in houses without paying any money. These

figures are two times more than the number of all families. Also the families with

minimum income who are paying rent in urban areas in 2002 were 24 percent. This

figure is less than the average of urban families which were 18 percent. Whereas in

rural regions, only 1 percent of the families having minimum income were tenants.

This figure is 1.6 percent for all the families.

Those families having the minimum income had less rooms compared to other families.

In 2002, urban families with minimum income had 2.4 and rural families with

minimum income had 2.3 rooms. This figure is very little compared to 3.7 and ¾ of

other families. In this year, about 61 percent of urban families with minimum

income had one or two rooms which is very little with the 18 percent of other families.

These figures were 62.3 and 26 percent in rural families.

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Also in 2002, about 16 percent of urban families with minimum income had 4 or

more rooms. This figure has been 55 percent compared to other families. This ratio

has been 14 and 54 percent in rural families.

Facilities and major household devices

Families with minimum income are fewer, compared to the average of number of

families in the country. But in 2002, usage of these facilities other than the heating

system has increased compared to year 1993. The use of gas for families with minimum

price in urban areas has increased from 19 to 48 percent, bath from 29 to 52

percent. Also in rural areas, the use of piped water in families having minimum

income has increased from 54 to 81 percent, electricity from 68 to 95 percent, bath

from 4 to 18 percent in the years 1993 to 2002. Both in rural and urban areas, there

are many developments.

The use of facilities in families with minimum income is less than in other families

and in rural areas is less than urban areas. The most important point is that these

indicators are mostly better in 2002 rather than 1993. For example, using the color

TV in urban families with minimum income has increased from 8 to 29 percent,

refrigerator from 76 to 83 percent, stove from 61 to 80 percent and vacuum cleaner

from 7 to 14 percent from 1993 to 2002. Also in rural regions, the usage of refrigerator

has increased from 38 to 68 percent, and stove from 36 to 55 percent.


In 1993, each urban family has spent 4.6 million Rials. This ratio has been 132,000

Rials among the families with minimum income. In other words, every urban family

with minimum income has spent only 11,000 Rials in one month and this means

only 5000 Rials per each family member. This figure in rural areas has been much

better and has been 1100 Rials per one month. In 2002, this figure has been 11,000

Rials for each person in urban and rural areas. This figure has increased remarkable

compared to year 1993.

In 2002, about 70 percent of the income of urban families with minimum income

has been spent for food expenses whereas this figure has been 25 and 41 percent in

other families. The less the expenses become, the more the expenses for food

becomes. In the expenses for food have been 17 and 33 percent in urban and rural


There is a meaningful difference between families with minimum income and other

families in the usage of food products.

In all the families, wheat, noodles, bread and different meat products and milk and

its products and eggs cover more than 50 percent of the food expenses.

In 2002, the usage of meat products among families with minimum income has

been less compared to other families. Also rural families have spent less money for

meat products compared to urban families.

Non-Food Products Expenses

In families with minimum income, the first priority is the food and then come the

non-food products. In families with minimum income, some devices and facilities

are sold for food products. This is a fact that has happened for the urban families

with minimum income in 1993. in 2002, in urban families with minimum income,

more than 3 times of the money spent for the non-food products has been spent for

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housing. This has caused in non-expenditure of transportation and connection

expenses. Housing has been the most expensive cost for all urban and rural families.

Poverty Research



Mostly those who are unemployed but have an income are working for another

member of the family without being paid. This situation is more obvious for rural

women. In 1996, about 21 percent of the employed women were working free of

charge for the families and this figure has been 41.5 percent for rural women. In

2004, this number increased to 34 percent for all the employed women and more

than 60 percent for rural women. In 2003, most of the rural women (62.1 percent)

were working without being paid. These people have no insurance and have no

retirement. This is also a major point in the poverty increase.

Government’s Actions

Women headed families are being supported through:

Approval of legal support and governmental policies

Increase in salaries

Loans and bank facilities

Housing and accommodation

Job opportunities

Working loans

Technical and professional trainings.

Strengthening women’s cooperatives in urban and rural areas through different


Implementing the social security project for women

Facilitating the establishment of supporting foundations such as micro credit institutions

and different funds.

Developing the specialized trainings for creating job opportunities and micro credit

Establishment of a Ministry for Welfare and Social Security in order to unite the

supporting organizations for vulnerable and poor people specially for women headed


Creating a national project for job opportunities and also for upgrading the abilities

of women and also cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development

Organization in order to establish training centers to eradicate poverty.

The project to establish an international university for rural women with the cooperation

of international organizations and universities

Supporting the establishment of women’s cooperatives and also increasing the

quantity of these corporations with a growth of 253 percent from 1997 to 2003.

Establishment of 176 corporations for women and girls graduated from university

and creating 1775 job opportunities for women throughout the country in the years


Facilitating the market for women in international and national level through par-

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ticipating in internal and external exhibition.

Allocation of budget from 2001 in order to provide social security for housewives

Improving the nutrition of girls and women as heads of families and also distributing

basic subsidized products and also distribution of wheat.

Facilitating the establishment of supporting foundations such as micro credit institutions

and different foundations.

Women’s NGOs Activities

In Women and Economy section, 215 activities have been implemented

through women’s NGOs. These NGOs tend to give training in order to enable

women and training for jobs and also services through financial and nonfinancial

assistance to help them have a better life and also to have more facilities

for a better job.

Holding meetings or seminars with the subjects related to assistance and poverty

eradication with the cooperation of organization and governmental sectors.

Holding job training classes and also enabling women in different levels and in different


Activities through social workers in order to help women headed households

Holding exhibition of women handy crafts and their arts

Printing information dissemination brochures in order to provide training requirements

of rural women

Provision of poverty eradication project for the United Nations Development

Program and the World Bank

Establishing corporation companies upon the suggestion of women’s NGOs or with

the direct participation of them

Giving loans or facilities to help them financially or non-financially for their basic

needs or education expenses and marriage costs through NGOs

Establishing a fund and encouraging Women’s NGOs in order to give services to

poor and disadvantage people

Creating job creating workshops for women and deprived girls

Creating an institution to support orphan girls

Giving services through different channels to families specially women headed


Compiling financial and non-financial assistant of the public to support the poor and


Sensitizing the members of Local Council to give assistance to women headed families

Assisting the poor has been one of the oldest missions of the grassroots organization.

Considering the religious and historical background and customs in

our country and fortunately this has turned to an opportunity in the activities

of women’s NGOs to assist the poor and eradicate poverty during the recent


There is a new method common during the last years and that is the strengthening

of poor through job and skill training. The new method of poverty eradication

concentrates on the social, training and social working services.

Poverty eradication needs programming, exchange of experience and information

dissemination and more contact with people in order to be able to attract

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their voluntary contribution.

CNWN Activities

Poverty eradication workshop and giving micro credit to rural women as a mechanism

for improving the situation of women

Present projects to the Municipality in order to establish sale shops to sell goods

produced by women

Presenting legal projects to the Parliament regarding the exemption of women from

paying court expenses related to the family cases

Payment of salary of the employed women or female workers to their relatives

Facilitating the establishment of centers to support the sick and those effected by

Bam earthquake

Fourth National Development Plan

Fourth National Development Plan of the country is:

Identifying the poverty line and also the identification of proper programs to organize

the services for giving support in order to cover all the population living under

the poverty line

Covering the population living between the poverty line and also setting economic

and social programs effecting the situation of poverty

Economic and social programs effecting poverty line

Population living under the poverty line

Social income through increasing the purchasing ability of them

The government should identify and cover those living under the poverty line maximum

until the end of second plan of the country.

According to the part 8, article 95, remarks C, it should provide:

Providing legal support

Social consultations

Defending the individual, family and social rights of the poor

Provision of special insurance through supporting activities for women headed

households with the priorities for orphan children

Provision and compilation of a project to enable women headed families with the

cooperation of other organization and institutions and NGOs and approving it in the

Cabinet in the first 6 months of the first year of the program

Increasing the monthly salary of needy families up to 40 percent in the first year of

the Plan

Developing social support, social security, unemployment insurance

Creating development methods

Social support for those employed in open market

Rehabilitation of disabled and the equal chances of women and men and also

strengthening women through access to proper job opportunities

Challenges and Constraints

The rate of activities among women is very low in the country (11.8 percent in year

2004). The low rate of this activity prevents them from having retirement rights

when they are old. The living chances of women in 2001 have been 70.4 whereas

the living chances of men in 2001 have been 67.6. Their chances to continue living

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after their husbands’ death are very high and this causes poverty.

Out of those employed women, 34 percent have been workers with no salary in

2004 and they have no retirement when they are old and this causes poverty. Those

housewives who lose their husbands or those who are not married become poor after

their fathers’ death.

Poor participation of women in decision making processes and also their inability

to defend their own social rights.

Development of poverty among women specially rural women in poor and far


Non-discrimination in allocating subsidies among poor and rich people in the country

Recommendation to Government

Strengthening the budget to fight poverty through establishing donor foundations in

trade and industrial and private companies through giving them loans and tax


Strengthening the traditional networks to eradicate poverty such as loan foundation

and also supervising the method of assistance given to them

Provision of free of charge or cheap access to legal services such as legal education

specially for poor women

Placing the gender analysis views in the implementation of loan programs and also

structure balancing and economy developing programs

Special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable group of women specially the

elderly, refugee, migrant and disabled girls and women

Strengthening the supervising mechanism to guarantee the success of poverty eradication


Trying harder to revise the administrative methods in order to provide complete and

equal access to economic sources such as heritage and ownership, credits, natural

resources and technology laws

Supporting the new methods of granting loans including methods to combine services

and training of women and also provision of credit facilities for rural women

and also opening ways for those women who have no access to a credit to get loans

Recommendation to Women’s NGOs

Insisting on the implementation of a program in a framework (the organizations

should have a long term program and also follow the goals set in the program)

The necessity for information exchange in the field of poverty eradication through

holding more seminars. It seems that the seminars are not sufficient.

Poverty eradication programs to be implemented in local level through encouraging

the participation of the public. This program is being implemented by some NGOs

but not all the NGOs follow it.

Acquiring models and successful experiences of other countries in the field of local


Attracting the support and reliance of public, religious leaders and social sources to

get their assistance in poverty eradication program with new methods

The year 2005 is the global year of micro credits. These credits can be good devices

for poverty eradication and they can create job opportunities. At the present time,

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women’s NGOs have some experiences in this field. However, it is recommended

that the NGOs become more active in the field of micro-credit.


In the Islamic Republic of Iran and since the Revolution, the necessity to defend

the poor and the needy has been given special attention and several institutions

such as the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, the Accommodation Charity

and hundreds of charity funding have been established to help them. They have

also insisted on the dignity of family. They are also emphasizing on the eradication

of poverty based on empowering women and training skills among them.

The employment of women is one of the causes that can reduce poverty. On the

basis of a statistics in 1383, 38 percent of the population of the country has been

active. Out of this number 12 percent have been women, which means one third

of the men. At the same time, 90 percent of the country population has been

employed. This number has been 83 percent among women. The rate of unemployment

among women has been 17 percent which is about two times more

than the men rate of unemployment. These indicators that show the difference

of activities and employment among men and women, can show the situation of

women in poverty to some extent.

More than one third of employed women and 62 percent of employed rural

women do not get paid for their work and work for the other members of the

family. This also means that most of these people do not have insurance and will

not receive any pension when they are retired. This is one of the causes of

poverty among those women who lose their heads of family and do not receive

any salary and face economic problems.

In 1381, more than 50 percent of families having the least expenses (10 percent

of the low level of the society) do not have heads of families. At the same time,

more than 70 percent of the families had employed head of family. This ratio

has been 40 percent among families with the least expenses.

The Anti-poverty campaign policies have been considered as one of the basic

points of economic programming in the third development programme.

Although the non-paralelism in the economic policies and also increase in the

number of youth, banking system with macro interest and also the non-management

of some governmental authorities has been one of the reasons of poverty

development among some women and children.

Insisting on the eradication of poverty in the fourth development programme

and also allocating credits to these activities has opened new area in the eradication

of poverty. But it is necessary to revive the old values, prevent luxury,

change in use pattern and also helping NGOs in implementing these programmes.

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Tables and Graphs:

Table 1. Activity, employment and unemployment rates of the population (10

years of age and over)


Source: SCI, 1996 Census – SCI, Statistics of Employment and Unemployment

Characteristics in Families

Table 2. Number of Financially Supported Families

and Amount of money paid


Source: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, Statistical Report, 2002, pages 32 and 35

Table 3. Number of Students supported by the Imam Khomeini in


Source: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, Statistical Report

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Table 4. Number of rural women headed households and the loans paid to

them for employment and agriculture section


Source: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, Statistical Report, page 218

Table 5. Number of covered families in self-sufficiency projects and number

of self-sufficient families


Source: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, Statistical Report, page 213 and 214

Table 6. Number of technical and vocational trainings and provision of job

opportunities, 1998-2002

Source: Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, Statistical Report, page 215

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Graph 4: Employment Rate of Iran

Graph 3: Unemployment Rate of Iran

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Graph 5: Percentage of income recipients , Iran