Honoring International Day of the Girl by Amplifying Iranian Voices

Marlborough marks International Day of the Girl by hosting Iranian-American speakers to shed light on the ongoing fight for women’s rights happening in Iran.

International Day of the Girl was first celebrated in October 2012 as a way to recognize the unique challenges girls face around the world and their battle for equity. Now in its tenth year, the day continues to center its messaging around the importance of promoting girls’ empowerment and the basic fulfillment of their human rights. With these central themes in mind, it seemed only fitting to dedicate October 11’s All-School Meeting (ASM) to educating the community about the ongoing protests in Iran. 

Several Iranian-American guest speakers shed light on the fight for freedom happening in Iran, which reached a fever pitch over the past several weeks. These most recent protests were sparked by the murder of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022. Ms. Amini was fatally beaten by the religious morality police force in Iran for wearing her state-mandated hijab too loosely. As the protests have continued over the past several weeks, school-aged girls and young women are on the front lines, bravely risking their lives to fight for their freedom. Collectively, the panelists galvanized students – many of whom are the same age as those protesting – to use their voices to be agents of change. 

The ASM was hosted by MOSAIC, Marlborough’s student affinity group for Middle Eastern North African identifying students, in conjunction with the Iranian American Women’s Foundation. Kara J. ’27, one of MOSAIC’s leaders, gave an impassioned introduction and shared why this topic was one of such importance for the whole community. She said, “Girls our age are out there, as we speak, fighting for their lives and we need to help them. That's why it is so important for us to learn about these events – as girls we need to support other girls. As feminists we need to support other feminists. As women we need to support other women. As decent human beings, we need to use the voice we have been gifted with to fight for those who have no voice at all.”

The panel of speakers at the ASM was deftly moderated by Roxanna Ameri ’13, and included Maz Jobrani, an Iranian-American actor and comedian; Tara Grammy, Iranian-born writer, producer, and performer; Maryam Zar, an Iranian-born American activist, lawyer, journalist, political commentator, and founder of Womenfound; and Sharona Nazarian, the first Iranian-American women to serve on the Beverly Hills City Council.

Ms. Ameri expressed her dismay at the lack of media coverage regarding the oppression of women in Iran and especially of recent events. She is energized by the fearlessness of the young people fighting for their basic freedoms in Iran. Ms. Ameri knew she had to take action. “If there is one thing that Marlborough instilled in the very fiber of my being, it is to use my voice to speak up,” she said. She additionally shared that she has taken it upon herself to educate her peers and shine a spotlight on the events in Iran. “These girls in Iran are clearly made of that same fabric as us at Marlborough. They need us now, more than ever, to amplify their voices.”

Mr. Jobrani echoed the need for more attention to be brought to these courageous protestors and shared that he hopes this event on campus will inspire Marlborough students to help spread the word. Ms. Zar reflected on the fact that Marlborough’s vision statement boldly reads equity leads education and reminded students that access to an unencumbered education is indeed a distinct privilege they enjoy as students at an independent school in the United States. She said, “Education is crucial for girls and women across the globe. Without access to an education, it is harder for them to reach their full potential and fulfill their dreams.” 

Ms. Zar went on to describe her own experience living in Iran as a media correspondent and how it inspires her to stay involved in the fight for female empowerment. During her time in Iran, she had her own run-in with the morality police force: “I ended up on the same bus as Mahsa Amini,” Ms. Zar shared, “and I understood the fear, disempowerment, and humiliation that is delivered to girls on a daily basis. I am moved to act and to be part of the movement that is going to gain empowerment for women around the world.”

The speakers continuously brought up the concept of human rights, which reminded students why this talk was taking place on International Day of the Girl. On a day when the global community is reminded about the fight for women’s rights everywhere, Ms. Nazarian said specifically of this inflection point in Iran: “This is not a religious or a cultural matter, but rather a human rights issue.”

This important conversation continued with a more intimate panel discussion over lunch hosted by MOSAIC, Girls Go Global, and Feminists for Education – all student-run groups on campus. This panel consisted of Roxanna Ameri ’13; Ariana Romero, Chair of the Rising Leaders Board of the Iranian American Women’s Foundation (IAWF), LA Chapter; Pardis Habibi, member of IAWF; Mandy Fazeli, founder of A More Balanced World; Mana Shooshtari, a Field Director for a grassroots political organization; and was moderated by Maryam Zar. Each panelist shared their own experiences and perspectives as Iranian-Americans. 

We are grateful to each of the speakers for visiting Marlborough and sharing so much of their knowledge and insights on this historic time. As the ASM drew to a close, Tara Grammy issued this call to action: “We are all human. As humans, we have a superpower: compassion. No one expects us to care about this crisis, but imagine if we did. Imagine how loud our voices could be and the power we collectively hold to support and amplify the voices of these brave girls.”


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