The Women Organization of Iran (WOI) was established by Princess Ashraf (the Shah’s twin sister), to give platform Iranian women to fight for every improvement in their lives. The Women’s Organization of Iran was a non-profit grassroots organization working mainly through volunteers. Its goals were to encourage women’s education for change, to work towards securing economic independence for women, and at the same time to remain within the spirit and the cultural traditions of the nation. It worked through local branches and Women’s Centers, which provided useful services for women – literacy classes, vocational training, counseling, sports and cultural activities and childcare.
One of the major victories of the WOI was the Family Protection Law of 1975. It granted women equal rights in marriage and divorce, enhanced women’s rights in child custody, increased the minimum age of marriage to 18 for women and 20 for men, and practically eliminated polygamy.
Abortion was also made legal without arousing much public attention, by removing the penalty for performing the operation embodied in a law dealing with medical malpractice. All labor laws and regulations were revised to eliminate sex discrimination and incorporate equal pay for equal work. Women were encouraged to run for political office.
By 1978 nearly 40% of girls 6 and above were literate; over 12,000 literacy corps women were teaching in villages; 33% of university students were women, and more women than men took the entrance exam for the school of medicine. 333 women were elected to local councils, 22 women were elected to parliament, and 2 served in the Senate. There were one cabinet minister (for women’s affairs), 3 sub-cabinet under-secretaries, one governor, an ambassador, and five women mayors.
Before catastrophe of 1979 Iran also established itself as playing a leading role for women’s rights among developing countries, introducing ideas and funds for the UN Regional Center for Research and Development for Asia and the Pacific, and the International Center for Research on Women.