With the Coronavirus outbreak, many families have suffered additional economic and social harm. Meanwhile, considering the gender discrimination institutionalized by the mullahs, women heads of households and female breadwinners have been most severely affected.
Women heads of household often must leave their homes, regardless of conditions, to earn an income. They are in need and have little to no savings. Therefore, it is impossible for them to observe quarantines as a means of avoiding Coronavirus infection.
What do the statistics say?
The mullahs’ regime lacks transparency. Nonetheless, the latest statistics, leaked from regime sources, indicate that the number of female breadwinners and heads of household is 4 million.
Pointing to the rise in divorce and the resultant increase in the number of female breadwinners, sociologist Amanullah Bateni says, “71% of divorced women have children, and 90% of them would not re-marry.”
Bateni goes on to outline the dangers facing families in which fathers are absent due to immigration, imprisonment, or military service. He reveals, “According to social observations and reports from women’s shelters, about a third of street walkers are wives of prisoners. A major reason for their current circumstances is poverty.”
“About 48.7% of women heads of household are up to 60 years old. Advanced age makes it difficult for these women to make a living, and that fact doubles their economic problems,” he adds (The state-run IMNA News Agency – December 8, 2020).
Zahra Bonyanian, director of a charitable organization, revealed that “information about women heads of household is kept confidential” (The state-run IMNA News Agency – December 8, 2020).
“There are no accurate statistics on the number of women heads of household in the province because some of them do not receive support from a specific institution!” says Somayeh Ghasemi Tusi, Deputy of Women’s and Family Affairs in Mazandaran Governorate (The state-run IMNA News Agency – December 8, 2020).
What are female breadwinners’ jobs, and what happened to them?
Many women heads of household have occupations such as cooking, making pastry, and pickling, or packaging, carpet-weaving, and tailoring. Such jobs have been facing severe difficulties since the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Especially for women who make food or handicrafts from home, the current health protocols have caused an increase in costs and a decrease in customers,” according to Mojtaba Naji, Social Affairs Deputy of the Welfare Department of Isfahan (The official IRNA News Agency – December 7, 2020).
Concerning other occupations of female breadwinners, Somayeh Ghasemi Tusi indicates, “Kindergarten staff, a number of school staff, hairdressers, women tailors, etc., are all affected by Covid-19.”
“There are 800 active kindergartens in Mazandaran province with 8,000 female employees. About 30-40 percent of these women are heads of household and are negatively affected by the closure of kindergartens,” Ghasemi added (The state-run ILNA News Agency – December 6, 2020).
Zahra Bonyanian acknowledged the situation, stating, “Most women heads of household have low levels of education and few professional skills, and have jobs in the informal sector. Their jobs are mostly part-time, uninsured, and with few benefits. These women are among the first to be let go during work crises” (The state-run IMNA News Agency – December 8, 2020).
Social services under the mullahs’ rule!
According to the state-run asriran.com (November 25, 2020), the poverty line in Iran for a family of four has risen to 10 million Tomans. However, Mojtaba Naji stated, “The Welfare Organization offers from 65,000 Tomans for one person to 400,000 Tomans for a family of five!”
These meager donations, which of course fail to solve problems, cover only 250,000 female breadwinners (Welfare Organization website, March 30, 2020). The rest of the at least 3,750,000 women-headed households, are deprived of even a meager assistance and struggle with deadly poverty.
The lack of support that female breadwinners receive from the mullahs’ regime is the better part of the bitter truth. In fact, state agencies are increasingly robbing the meager properties of female breadwinners and women-headed households. Several reports from different Iranian cities expose how state agents have been attacking and destroying poor people’s houses.
Mental and physical problems, Coronavirus consequences for female breadwinners
With regard to health problems facing female breadwinners, psychologist Bahar Tavakoli says, “These women are facing psychological exhaustion. They are constantly worried about the health of their family members, so they face hypersensitivity, anxiety, depression, and obsession.” She adds, “Lack of economic security, unfavorable job conditions, limited education, weakened physical and mental health states, social insecurity and exclusion, and children’s mental problems are among the factors affecting female breadwinners’ lives” (The state-run IMNA News Agency – December 8, 2020).
“Due to these psychological pressures, the body’s immune system is weakened, so female breadwinners are more likely to experience physical and mental illnesses” (The official IRNA News Agency – December 7, 2020).
Female breadwinners unburdening themselves
Mehri is a female breadwinner who describes her life after becoming unemployed: “My husband was an addict. I divorced him and am taking care of my two children. Before the Coronavirus, I had a meager income, and I had been living from hand to mouth. The Coronavirus has taken everything away from me except my ability to breathe. When I cannot work, if I don’t starve to death, I might die from my landlord’s threats to evict me.”
Ziba, a young woman with three children and a disabled husband, says, “My husband’s spinal cord was injured after falling from a scaffold. I have been the breadwinner for three years. We live in my father-in-law’s house. I work in a restaurant, and every day, I am threatened with being fired. I am exhausted from the cost of my husband’s medication and my children’s online education. I wake up every day with the fear that I will be unemployed, and fear of being infected with the Coronavirus. These fears have become an incurable pain. I am not afraid of death; my only fear is that my children will go hungry if I am gone.”
Zahra Nikkar, who has been added to the list of female breadwinners in the last three years because of her husband’s imprisonment, says, “Before Covid-19, I could get small loans to buy clothes at Isfahan’s wholesale market, and then resell them at local markets. But pandemic-related restrictions have led to successive closures of both the wholesale market and the local markets.”
Somayeh Azizi, a mother of three who works for a cleaning company, says, “I had been working for this company for two years, and my income wasn’t bad. Since last March, people have become concerned about the Coronavirus, and people like me have lost their jobs” (The official IRNA News Agency – December 7, 2020).