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Special Meeting of Women Ministers of Culture: “Women’s Voices and Cultural Understanding”

Thu, Sep 1, 2005

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2005 Govt of Iceland_Special Meeting of Women Ministers of Culture

(Laura Deal, Eftehia Katsareas, Bonnie Cohen, Michal Cafrey-Yardeni, Alisa Moldavanova, Mahnaz Afkhami, Blanca Ovelar, Smt. Renuka Chowdhury, Cherie Booth, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Tanja Karpela, Katerina Stenou, Camilla Gunnell, Askalu Menkerios, Dr. Annette Pritchard, Ólöf Ólafsdóttir, Laura Liswood, Shahnaz Gazi, Lynn Bean. Photo: Gunnar Vigfússon)

On August 29 and 30, 2005, the Government of Iceland in cooperation with The Council of Women World Leaders hosted a Special Meeting of Women Ministers of Culture in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 29-30 August 2005 on the theme of “Women’s Voices and Cultural Understanding”.

Three keynote presentations were given which were discussed by the ministers in attendance including Mahnaz Afkhami’s speech on women’s cultural rights.

The meeting was chaired by Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Minister of Education, Science and Culture. The meeting was arranged in honour of Iceland’s former President and first Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who celebrated her 75th birthday in April. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir served as President of the Republic of Iceland from 1980 to 1996. She was the first woman in the world to be elected Head of State in a democratic, national election.

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Culture

"The infringement of women's rights is usually exercised in the name of tradition, religion, social cohesion, morality, or some complex of transcendent values. Anyway, it is justified in the name of culture." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"The central problem of cultural relativism is that it must deny rights to women (or men) who have become aware that they posess rights because they possess an identity that is theirs independently of the community to which they belong." - Cultural Relativism And Women's Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

Quotables – Muslim Women

"The most taxing contradiction [Muslim women] face casts the demands of living in the contemporary world against the requirements of tradition as determined and advanced by the modern Islamist world view. At the center of this conflict is the dilemna of Muslim women’s human rights – whether Muslim women have rights because they are human beings, or whether they have rights because they are Muslim" - Faith and Freedom: Introduction

"To the extent that Islam, defined and interpreted by traditionalist "Muslim" men, is allowed to determine the context and contour of the debate on women's rights, women will be on the losing side of the debate because the conclusion is already contained in the premise and reflected in the process. This is the heart of the moral tragedy of Muslim societies in our time." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

“Islam is not the problem. Rather it is the misuse of Islam by interpreting it to fit the needs of the partriarchal order - the powers that be - and the privileges that one gender has held over the other.” - How are women working to eliminate violence against women in Muslim-majority societies?