Date of this Version
Iranian women have shown themselves to be anything but victims (Afkhami, 2009; Price, 1996; Shiranipour, 2002). Although they live in an oppressive regime (Nafisi, 1999; ―Symbolic annihilation,‖ 1999), grassroots efforts of their One Million Signatures Campaign transformed gender politics in Iran (Khorasani, 2009). The Campaign has become international, and Iranian Americans have played a prominent role in furthering its message (Tohidi, 2010).
Iranian women‘s struggles reflect the global phenomenon of women‘s movements (Ferree, 2006). Empowerment is used to conceptualize such movements, but few studies have explored individuals from the Middle East (e.g. Dufour & Giraud, 2007).
The present study addressed these deficiencies by recording the stories of eight activists of the One Million Signatures Campaign. My approach was influenced by personal experiences, my worldview, women's empowerment research, and literature on Iranian women‘s issues. I positioned myself in the research by explaining how parental influences, graduate school experiences, and an independent research project in Tehran led me to this study. I adopted the transformative worldview that science should be used to improve society (Mertens, 2008). I synthesized previous literature on women‘s empowerment and Iranian women.
Procedures of the study followed that of portraiture design (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). Data collection included interviews, observations, and document review. I analyzed the data using systematic and interpretative techniques to develop three composite portraits. Each portrait represented two or three individuals. The first portrait was of Soheila, an artist whose self-confidence was apparent in every word and gesture. The second portrait was Paria, a warm individual who possessed a deep passion for understanding people. The individual in the third portrait, Dariush, possessed a genuineness and calm persistence that inspired me to act. Themes that emerged across portraits were (a) finding purpose in adversity, (b) the development of gender consciousness, (c) self-awareness, and (d) uncertainty. I discuss implications of the findings. I conclude with limitations, research directions, and strengths of this study. The present study informs women‘s rights activists in social movements.