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PGN Background

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PGN was launched and housed in the Center for Women's Studies at the University of Tehran in 2004 by the World Bank in Tehran. It organized several activities and events involving participants from the three main Persian-speaking countries of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

Since 2006, PGN has been placed within a broader World Bank-funded Gender Network for the Middle East and North Africa Region to be coordinated by CAWTAR. Hamyaran, a non-governmental organization in Iran, performed PGN's activities. These activities consisted of the Persian Gender Portal, including a study on poor female heads-of-households in Tehran, and a case study on elements that make public policy succeed or fail, such as Iran's successful family planning policy experience. In addition, members from PGN countries participated in events that were organized by CAWTAR in Tunis (2006/7), Washington DC (2008), and Dubai (2008).

Starting in 2009, based on a renewed demand for broader activities and membership, it was decided to reconfigure the Network's terms of membership to include practitioners inside and outside the PGN countries, hence capitalizing and synergizing on substantial research expertise among the Diaspora. Due to logistical reasons and travel restrictions, it was decided that Harvard University's Middle East Initiative would host the event. Around 120 individuals were invited from PGN countries as well as those from Europe and North America. Sixty were able to participate.

In preparation for the conference, several focus groups were held to identify key themes. These were held at: (a) the Middle East Studies Association Annual Conference in Washington DC, November 2008; (b) a roundtable in Tehran, December 2008; (c) a panel on female heads-of-households at the Center for Population Research ; and (d) the Iran Chamber of Commerce Conference on Women Entrepreneurs. These focus groups identified the theme of the roundtable to be held regarding women's employment, self-employment and entrepreneurship.