Mahnaz Afkhami

Languages Spoken: 
Area(s) of Expertise: 
Country/Region of Expertise: 

Nationality:  Iran (Islamic Republic of), United States
Profession:  Activist, Scholar/Writer
Languages Spoken:  English, Persian
Area(s) of Expertise:  Democracy & Governance, Leadership, Religion & Culture, Women's Human Rights
Country/Region of Expertise:  Iran (Islamic Republic of), Middle East and North African Region (MENA)

Mahnaz Afkhami is Founder and President of Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies, and former Minister of State for Women's Affairs in Iran. Born in Kerman, Iran, she founded the University Women’s Association of Iran and served as Secretary General of the Women's Organization of Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In exile in the United States, Ms. Afkhami has been a leading advocate of women's rights for more than three decades, having founded and headed several international non-governmental organizations focused on advancing the status of women.  Among the organizations that she co-founded include Women Leaders Intercultural Forum (with Mary Robinson, Lisa Anderson, and Thoraya Obaid); Gender At Work (with Kumi Naidoo, Aruna Rao and Joanna Kerr) and, Women Leaders Action Network for Children (with Marian Wright Edelman, Melanne Verveer and Madeleine Albright). Formerly, she was President of the Sisterhood Is Global Institute.

She currently serves on the boards and steering committees of a number of international organizations including Board of Trustees, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, 2012-present; Advisory Committee on Women, Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, 1991–present; and Chair, Global Council, International Museum of Women, 2000–present.

Partial list of past board and committee appointments include Steering Committee, World Movement for Democracy, 1999–2010; Board of Directors, International League for Human Rights, 2000–2006; Executive Committee, Women’s Human Rights Net, 2000–2004; Women’s Steering Committee, Commission on Globalization, State of the World Forum, 1999–2002; Steering Committee, Women Waging Peace Initiative, Women and Public Policy Program of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, 1999–2000; Steering Committee, Women In Legislation League (WILL) project, Parliamentarians for Global Action, 1999–2000; Advisory Board, The Global Fund for Women, 1998–2007; International Advisory Group, Association of Women’s Rights in Development, 1998–2000; Advisory Committee on Women; and she served as Founder-Director, the Oral History of Iran Archives, 1982–2000.

Furthermore, she served as a member of Iran's High Council of Family Planning and Welfare from 1975-1979, the board of trustees of Kerman University from 1976-1979, and the board of trustees of Farah University for Women from 1977–1979, and served as Chair, Board of Trustees, Women's Organization of Iran School of Social Work from 1973–1979.

Ms. Afkhami created the concept and mobilized support for the establishment of the Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (APCWD) and the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  Additionally, she has led numerous task forces on democratization, leadership, and women's human rights in the Global South including multinational delegations to the UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna (1993) and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995).

Ms. Afkhami has lectured and published extensively on the international women’s movement, women's human rights, women in leadership, women and technology, and women's participation in civil society building and democratization.  She has authored numerous publications, among them Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation (1997), Faith and Freedom: Women's Human Rights in the Muslim World (1995), In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Postrevolutionary Iran (1994), Women in Exile (1994), and Women and the Law in Iran (1993). Among the training manuals she has co-authored are Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies (1996), Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women (2001), and Leading to Action: A Political Participation Handbook for Women (2010), and Victories Over Violence: Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls A Practitioner’s Manual (2012).

She has appeared on the BBC, CNN, and PBS and in numerous television and radio interviews on NPR, BBC Persian, VOA Persian and other international outlets.

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