The Lady Governor

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Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, women have had an unprecedented appearance in the society. In recent years some Iranian women have climbed to the top levels of the civil service. And Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the southeast of the country has surpassed all other provinces in this regard. Six women have made it to the highest government positions. This documentary will visit three of these women to interview them and follow their daily lives.

Narration: Qasar Ghand is one of the beautiful cities of Iran in Chabahr region with most of its people are farming. Homeira Rigi is 38. she's been recently appointed as the highest executive authority and state representative in the city. She’s a Sunni Muslim, Baluch ethnicity, in history of Islamic Republic of Iran she is the first female governor appointed for a seat.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand:“Hello – Mr. Bozorgzadeh? I have prepared the strategic plan for the city of Qasr-e Qand … All right, take the statistics as soon as possible ... He himself is in the meeting ... Well, for the time being tell him about this issue … Well, tell it to Raeisee and he’ll follow it up. Say that Mrs. Governor has asked your Chief Executive Officers to do this job ... Whoever makes a mistake will be held responsible ... Ms. Sarmadi, I’ve even told them that if their professional employees have any problems, it’s my duty as Governor to resolve them.”

Narration: She is personally involved with issues that local people are facing on a daily basis. She spends most of her time in her office, making contacts, visiting locals, finding resolutions and issuing orders.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “Last year, they had asked an irrelevant person to teach a course in chemistry.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) A woman who refer to the governor: “That’s why we have come here because honestly during these five years that I was not here, the problem of the region has been resolved in one way or another.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “If it had been resolved, there wouldn’t have been many people up in the air.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) A man who refer to the governor: “Her shoes have been filled. She has not taught specialized courses.”

Narration: She has lots of memories from her initial difficulties, but now believes that she is past those stages and build up her real trust.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “I knew that as Governor I was in charge of the senior management of the city. In fact, it was a political management of the city. People have high expectations of a senior political representative of the government and a governor is supposed to manage a city and its suburbs. It was clearly a difficult job. But I believe that human beings have great potential which has nothing to do with gender. It’s neither Islamic nor scientific to say that individual potential is up to gender.

Accepting a woman as a political manager in a region with much stronger religious and tribal prejudices in comparison with other regions in the country is easier said than done.

I remember very harsh public reactions I had to face during the first three months. For example one said, “This woman must be killed with a machine gun.” Later on I told him, “Seriously, was my job so inhumane that nothing could appease your anger but a machine gun?”

People can send messages directly to my cellphone to have their say whatsoever; it can be a report on power cut in a village or a road blockage after rain.

As soon as I get the messages – even if I’m in a meeting- I answer them as I’m chairing the meeting because I don’t want such things to interrupt their lives.

Those who have come back from the Hajj pilgrimage plus some officials like the city’s Police Chief, the city’s Commander of the Revolutionary Guard, the Mayor and the City Council must be here at my office tomorrow at 8 am. No problem if they are asleep. You send the message and they will see it when they wake up for praying and will be well-prepared.

Call the Mayor and the City Council and ask them to be here tomorrow morning at 8 to go and see three Friday Prayers leader who have come back from the Hajj pilgrimage.

I suggested that we must work out a plan on this issue. We don’t want to hire someone from outside. The children of these farmers are all educated. I daresay that on the list we have prepared, at least 50 of them have a bachelor's degree. This figure is of course an underestimate.

My suggestion was to use both human resources and the city’s potential in different parts in the form of cooperatives.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Unknown man: “In coming weeks, God willing, we’ll invite the councils and try to begin the cooperatives project.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “Currently, all security and social problems stem from unemployment. In other words, if we gather all the groups and create jobs for them, our security problems will be resolved by themselves. As far as I know security problems in the region is partly due to unemployment.”

Narration: Key challenges for the governor are security and job creation in Qasr Ghand region, considering presence of martial group in this border region, she does her best to get the support of local Emam, high ranks Sunni clerics and local officials to improve the life condition and impalement the better security situation in this region.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “One can do something in anger that he would regret for the rest of his life; something that cannot be made up for.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) a man in military outfit : “We’ll help him by commuting his sentence for having illegal arms. For example, if the sentence is paying 15 million tomans in fines or 15 years in prison which now is for having arms illegally … But now both the council and the attorney general are there. If a person submits his arms voluntarily, we try to commute his sentence provided that no one has filed a suit against him.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “So do send your colleagues to deliver a speech for ten minutes about this issue on behalf of you after the speeches of the Friday prayers leaders. Talking about this issue at some big mosques would be a good, extensive awareness raising. We must invite people to submit their arms on a voluntary basis because they don’t need them anymore, though needed in the past for security reasons. We decided to pinpoint the causes of quarrels in the city. We’re still going on in this regard. I usually summon each side of a quarrel and talk to them separately. I listen to each side separately and then I try to find the people and clerics who have influence over these groups. We talk to them and then after clearing the decks and getting the comprehensive information from both sides, we hold the final meeting, trying to bring about reconciliation between the two sides. It’s interesting to know that women are highly respected in such cases. It’s usually said, for example, that “We forgive for the sake of the woman’s chador.” The presence of women is very important in such meetings. In many cases, when I intervene, they say, “Mrs. Governor, since you are a woman, we will settle the dispute.”

Fundraising feast is a real manifestation of firm management and national will. This event is going to happen for the first time in Qasr-e Qand. There were many donors in the dawn of Islam. Lady Fatemeh, for example, who did not save any money for herself and spent all the money inherited from her father to release captives. After all, we are the followers of these great people.”

Narration: One of the most important things she has started to dofor the first time in the city of Qasr Ghand is to have charity needs with people who raised money to the prisoners who are in jail for not being able to clear their debts.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, women, ethnic groups and religious minorities have a chance to take part in senior management. I’m a Sunni Balouchi woman and my post as governor is a case in point.

I regard my post as governor as an opportunity to serve my country and my people. I like to use this opportunity with more efforts to develop this corner of our vast country in a way that it deserves.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) A local man, No Name: “Molana Arefi said, “I have come here 20 times, none of them in daylight. This time, they’re going to take us in daylight in honor of you scholars who are accompanying us.” We asked our trip organizer to take us through the route to Mecca during the day. The route was rough and rugged. Despite this, the Prophet travelled with Abu Bakr from Mecca to Medina. The Prophet gave him two dirhmas to take them to Medina.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “The clerics have already accompanied the government and the country’s policies. I hope that the cooperation will be more than before. We have to handle problems related to welfare services. For example, we see people complaining about voltage drops and power outages. In a meeting with the head of electricity office, we realized that these problems mainly stemmed from the wrong habits of consumption.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, women, ethnic groups and religious minorities have a chance to take part in senior management. I’m a Sunni Balouchi woman and my post as governor is a case in point.

Take part in the Friday prayers to know about the people’s demands directly and explain your plans and policies to the people there. If you do so, I assure you that many current shortcomings will disappear in such meetings.

Since the final exams were approaching, we invited the head of education department to take part in a meeting with the Friday prayers leaders and ask them to talk about final exams in their Friday prayers sermons and tell the people who are mostly farmers to let their children study for the exams for two weeks.

Anyway, our children are our valuable resources and we must not sacrifice them for work as we must not sacrifice our families for work.

I have three children.

Two boys, one is 12 and the other 8; and one girl who is 2.5.

The modern technology has bridged the gap between us.

On different occasions, for example on Mother’s Day I was not with my family but my children sent me what they had drawn for me.

For example for Mother’s Day, my children made a painting for me and send it to me.

Kids leave voice message for me … Listen to it!”

SOUNDBITE (Persian), Kid’s Sounds: “Happy Mother’s Day dear mom! My dear mom, my lovely mom, I pick the best flower in the world for you. Happy Mother’s Day!”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “This way we are in touch with each other.”

Conversation:

Come here, give mom a hug

How about me? Why don’t you hug me…?

Bravo my good girl, come and give all of us a hug

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “Before marriage, we were working together. We were five people who used to work in an NGO with educational and cultural programs. We think in almost a similar way and we don’t divide tasks in our marital life; we don’t say, for example, this is your job or this is my job. We have always supported and encouraged each other. We were from two different tribes where marriages would rarely happen between them. Our marriage was in fact a union between two different places, Sarhad and Makuran. Sar Had is in northern Sistan and Balouchestan and Makuran in southern Sistan and Balouchestan. We bridged the north and the south.”

Narration: Ms.Rigi is a physical therapist and he clinic in Chabahar is one of the first physical therapists in the city she goes to her Clinic on weekends to treat her patients.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “This is a very traditional area and people resisted to this kind of treatment at the beginning, but eventually they accepted this method. As the society developed, the people’s way of life changed.

Here the people didn’t access to such medical equipment and this was a new thing in the region. They showed resistance to such equipment which had roots in their lack of knowledge about new ways of treatment. As the city develops and the people get more knowledgeable, their lifestyles change inevitably. We had the same problem during the first five years. Even the physicians wouldn’t send their patients here for treatment because the patients didn’t appreciate our way of treatment. What I’m trying to say is that we must show living examples to people especially in traditional societies. When we could improve the condition of a stroke patient or a patient suffering from cerebral palsy it was a good advertisement for us.

-Give me a hug mom…

-Why did you hug Ashkan?

-Come here my dear, you hug us all together…

In 1991, when I graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree, my father passed away and he couldn’t see the fruit of his efforts. I remember him all the time and I owe all my successes to his support. My mother continued his way. I would go to elementary school with my two brothers and three uncles. Five boys and one girl! Since I was the only daughter and a smart student, my teachers would ask me to hold classes for other students to be a role model for them. The boys were jealous of me and they would do something to annoy me. I remember one day my uncles and brothers came up to my father and said, “If she’s going to go school, we won’t go to school anymore.” My father answered, “If anyone is not going to go to school, they are you boys. She must go to school.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Little girl: “I am very happy spending time with my cousins, exactly like you in the past.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Homeyra Rigi, The governor of Qasr-e Qand: “You take care of my children and help them with homework. I might be too busy to help them with homework but I’m not worried about it since I know that you will help them. So you’re helping me a lot. In other words, we’re helping each other in one way or another.”

Narration: People of this province are mostly Sunni Baluchm, tradition and religion are strong in historical roots in this region. In recent years despite all resistance and cultural barriers women of this region are able to access high education and use their affords to get access to top political office. Sarbaz is one of the oldest and most traditional cities in Iran, most of its people are Sunni Muslims for the first time the city council of this region has appointed Samiyeh Baluchzehi who is 26 for the mayor’s office and delegated all the city tasks to her.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Samiyeh Baluchzehi, mayor of Sarbaz city: “It’s about 6 months since I was elected by the Sarbaz City Council with a majority of five and at the moment I’m the Mayor of Sarbaz. The city has a traditional structure. The election of a female mayor is a rare event in Iran but the election of a woman in a traditional city has not yet happened. My family showed a very positive reaction and my father was among the main motivators who encouraged me to run for election. It was very stressful at the beginning; I can’t say that the situation was comfortable. But now I feel less anxious. I was anxious about whether I could serve the people of Sarbaz or not. But later on, with the help of the City Council and Municipality personnel I could shoulder this great responsibility with success. All in all, I am satisfied with my job. The public reactions were very positive. At first, people might have thought that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the responsibilities of a mayor. But I showed them that a woman can walk shoulder to shoulder with a man in managerial jobs.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) rural woman: “In this hot weather, we have nothing to sit on. There is neither a fan nor an air conditioner.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Samiyeh Baluchzehi, mayor of Sarbaz city: “A woman takes pride when she finds out that a female mayor is going to visit her deprived village. A female mayor can understand the demands of other women and the mayor would spare no effort to help them.”

Conversation (Persian) rural woman and mayor: “We are making pottery; objects like sugar bowls, plates, pots etc.

- How long does it take to make each of them?

- Two Hours

- Two Hours each one.

- from where do you take the earth?

- you color them, dont you?

- From where do you take the color?

- There is a kind of stone from which the color is extracted.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Ataollah Bozorgzade, head of Sarbaz City Council: “We are making an artificial turf field here. Flooring and concrete pouring is done. This is a 20 by 40 meters field and its location was picked because it is adjacent to boys’ school. There will be a 3 meter high fence all around it. There will be stadium seats on two sides of the field. And here we’re doing the artificial turf and currently the mayor is preparing its infrastructures.”

Conversation (Persian) Samiyeh Baluchzehi & Worker:

“How is work going on?

Good, everything is good

How long does it take to finish?

10 to 15 days

Finish it sooner, we are in a rush. She has organized the city, believe me I know her, she was our neighbor, she does work very seriously.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Ataollah Bozorgzade, head of Sarbaz City Council: “I am Attaollah Bozorgzadeh, the head of the Sarbaz City Council. For the first time in the history of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, we have elected a female mayor. She is also the first Sunni Balouch woman to be mayor in this history of this country.

In the end, the mayor’s powerful plan won a vote of confidence in the Sarbaz City Council. In addition to electing a powerful mayor able to keep the promises we gave to people, we wanted to do something unique. We wanted to break this wrong structure that society sometimes would not stand the presence of women in top managerial positions.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Samiyeh Baluchzehi, mayor of Sarbaz city: “It was Friday. Some had come from Tehran to do the pavement. I had been surrounded by a large number of children. They were so happy that I became motivated more than before. I was thrilled. Please come in.”

Narration: Massumeh Parandvar is a 34 year old Shia Muslim who has recently being appointed as the first female governor in the Hamoon region.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Imam Prayer: “I would like to congratulate each and every one of you, especially dear officials, governor and her, on the birthday anniversary of the Prophet; the prophet of mercy and peace, the prophet of kindness, the prophets of good and beautiful things. It’s a good time today in this divine place, in the house of God to sit beside each other and follow the tradition of the Prophet of Islam and to take part in a meeting that is to mark the birthday of the great Prophet.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) a man, making speech: “We also cherish her presence in here and again welcome her and wish her success in serving her people. God willing, with her efforts and management, our city of Hamoun will stand on top in terms of development and prosperity. Now I invite Mrs. Governor to take the podium.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Massumeh Parandvar, The governor of Hamoon region: “I would like to thank you for your presence in this meeting which we are invited to.I cannot work miracles all by myself because as you know one person is not very effective. But, I hope that with the help of you great people we can have a bright future for our city of Hamoun. This land belongs to you. It belongs to you men, and women who apparently have not been invited to this meeting. I hope that next time I come here I see my sisters as well. I want men and women who can accompany me on this way steadfastly. Is there anyone who can help me? I’m nothing without you.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Imam Prayer: “We are happy that our governor is a woman though it was unprecedented here to have a female governor and therefore some complained about it. The governor is a talented woman with great qualifications. We hope that she will do her duties well. We are with her and wish her best.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Local man: “The governor is a diligent lady. Women are more serious at work. As a chieftain of a tribe who lead 13,000 families in Iran I ask God to help our sister.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Local man: “It’s a good idea since it’s also the women’s rights. They also have rights in this country. Some of them are the mothers of martyrs and those who got injured in the war. They must be in charge to serve their country.

… especially the villagers try to study in order to progress. They know if they study, they will get senior posts like what Mrs. Governor did. We take pride in such women.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Massumeh Parandvar, The governor of Hamoon region: “It took courage to accept this job. Things are more difficult for pioneers. But let me tell you something: we have unique people; we have very good people. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the people in Sistan and Balouchetan are unique in hospitality, accepting social and political thoughts, unity and solidarity. You see that in Parliament elections, the people in Sistan and Balouchestan voted for a female candidate. People expect many things to be done, whether by men or women. The gender is not important for them. They are looking for a person who can serve them.”

Narration: In her region it is not common for women to come and attend public events in ceremonies or even be present in public meeting held by the local officials but Ms. Governor rejects this matter and asks local officials to allow women to attend in this ceremonies.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Massumeh Parandvar, The governor of Hamoon region: “For me it doesn’t matter if you are from a city or a village. For me it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. For me, it doesn’t matter if you are a Shiah or a Sunni. And it doesn’t matter to which walks of life you belong. I’ve come here to do something with your help and effort. Today, I am the governor of this city. Tomorrow the governor would be someone else. I’d like people to be satisfied with me when I leave the office and say that she was a female governor but did her job well.”

Narration: In order to control the region under her governors, she visit everywhere including the most deprived and rural areas, she shows that she is aware of all affairs.

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Unknown man, Head of women who work in weaving carpet: “Thank God, from the moment these women came and wanted this door opened there have been about 100 women working here. Now we’re going to expand it and we hope to increase the number of the weavers from 100 to 500 in the near future.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Unknown girl, Worker: “At the moment, I’m working in this workshop and I want to study to be governor just like Mrs. Parandvar. I would like to resolve the problems of the people as far as I can. I also want to have a good future.”

SOUNDBITE (Persian) Unknown man, Head of women who work in weaving carpet: “I feel very good and I’m happy that a woman is the governor. We can share our problems with her. It’s easier for us to talk to a female governor.

She can understand our problems. She’s one of us and can understand women’s problems.

Look, at this moment in the night, a woman is working with dogged determination. There is no difference between men and women in this regard. It’s the woman who helps the man achieve success. Look, how active she is up to this moment. She will get home for rest at midnight. But anyway, thank God!”

Conversation (Persian) Massumeh Parandvar and her families:

“Hello my pretty son. Are you fine? Come and give me a hug.

Have you had a good time?

I’ve just bought these for you. Let me …

Have you bought me colored pencil?

Yes, dear.

Eraser!

A pretty eraser.

Hello, how are you? What’s up?

Fine!

I’ve bought you a birdie notebook.

How pretty it is!

What’s up? When did you come?

About an hour ago .

Everything’s fine?

Yes, thank God!

Arshia and I are going to draw the clever mouse and the sneaky snake. Wow! How beautiful it is!

Don’t take them out, dear.

I’m going to paint.

How beautiful! Look at the eraser. How beautiful it is!

What do you want to draw?

Use all of them. Their colors are beautiful. Draw a beautiful rainbow for mommy, right?

What’s up?

Everything’s fine. Work at the office.

And you?

Cannot complain.

Everything’s fine? Thank God!

Here is your eraser. What a beautiful eraser!

Are you hungry?

Yes, I’m starving.

Well, call Morteza and ask them when they will arrive.

Behind every successful woman, there is an unsuccessful man who has failed to impede his own wife’s progress.

But Morteza, it’s not true about Hamed because he really helped me. Actually, I owe my success to my family, my husband and particularly my son who let me work.

You’re husband is kidding. Don’t take it seriously.

But joking aside, Hamed also knows that my brothers also helped me a lot.” 

   

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