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Roxanna Setayesh

The First Signature

Leila shirnejad

Tuesday 20 February 2007

Today is the first day of the beginning of my journey. I am anxious but very hopeful. I have made copies of the signature collection forms and on the top of the pages I have added the campaign website address. I don’t know where to start, but I know what to say. For years, I’ve been preparing myself - thinking, reading and writing about these issues, but this time is different. This is a struggle.


I have been collecting my weapons with sweat and tears. I studied in the war years, under the terrifying bombings, during material shortages and high prices. I was a top student. I went to university and learned all the difficult equations and formulas, read countless texts, novels, and poems. Nonstop, I ran and ran, and passed a lot of men along the way. It’s obvious that I can do it, and why not? The important thing is to start.

I tell myself that I will start on my way to work - when I am in a taxi, sitting next to another woman. But why not start with a man? What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of failing on my first attempt, of having my first experience met with failure? Yes, it’s true. But why should a man say no to a justice which he needs himself?

To be honest, I’m afraid that I’ll be met with opposition and fail to collect any signatures. However, I must start.

I try to calm my nerves by telling myself to think of this as an interview. Just explain the issue and ask people for their opinion. Or rather I can think of myself as a pollster who is trying to estimate how many people know about the issue and how many are willing to support it. I can see it as an exercise in rights education, where I only teach people about women’s rights. That will be enough. Signatures are important, but they’re not everything. Education and knowledge are more important.

I climb into the taxi. The first person who sits next to me is a woman. Oh thank God! Never was the sex of the passenger next to me so important! Today I don’t want to hear a “No.” This is my first experience and I want to remember it fondly. I struggle with how to begin, from where and when. Now? No, I should wait a few minutes. This is so hard. I, who have never had difficulty starting conversations and writing, am like a mule in the mud! Blood rushes to my face. I take a deep breath and take a look at the woman next to me. She has a simple, serious face, around 45 years of age. I tell myself not to worry. She will definitely understand. She must have a daughter of her own and if for no other reason, will sign for her sake.

I ask her if she has heard about the One Million Campaign for the Change of Discriminatory Laws? She looks at me with a frown as she searches for this name in her mind. No, she has not heard anything. I give a short description of the campaign and explain that I am collecting signatures and working to raise awareness about women’s legal status. Discriminatory laws limit women’s right to divorce, child custody, employment, and travel, I continue. Women are accorded half the rights of men in blood money, inheritance, and legal testimony.

They are denied the right to run for President…. She takes a closer look at the petition form with her serious demeanor, “Come to think of it, I remember my daughter telling me something about the campaign…." She signs the petition before she exits the taxi. I let out a deep breath and am proud that the young generation has become familiar with the campaign in such a short time. With much excitement I place the signed form in my folder like it’s a precious gem. I close the folder and hold it to my heart. I have succeeded in my getting my first signature! I tell myself that in the not so distant future, our children will learn about the women, who in the struggle to achieve justice and secure human rights, took the streets throughout the city!

The Farsi Version of the Article

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