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Photos and Reportage by Alvaro Serrano


Great strides are being made toward universal literacy and primary


Iranian women have made steady
progress in educational attainment.

Meeting International Goals

The Islamic Republic of Iran has shown considerable commitment to meeting international development goals. It has already surpassed targets set at the International Conference on Population and Development in the areas in maternal and infant mortality, family planning and contraceptive prevalence. Great strides are being made toward universal literacy and primary education. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has provided considerable technical support to these efforts and has now embarked on its fourth five-year programme in the country.

The country is also on track for meeting many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the national averages mask significant disparities between rich and poor, young and old, men and women and inhabitants of different regions. Improving the country's statistical capacity so it can better measure these disparities is high on the list of priorities identified in the UN Common Country Assessment (2003) and the 2005-2009 UN Development Assistance Framework. Initiatives that tackle poverty among vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities and refugees, are also priorities.

The goal of gender equality remains problematic. Women have made steady progress in educational attainment (more women than men have entered universities in each year since 2000, and the literacy rate of women and girls has increased from 25.5 per cent in 1976 to 76.2 per cent in 2002). Their access to jobs and careers, especially in the public sector, has improved and most women have greater control over their fertility than in the past. Nevertheless, cultural traditions and strict social norms, as well as existing laws, keep women from full participation and equity. UNFPA is continuing its dialogue with policy makers, religious leaders and the media to integrate gender concerns into reproductive health policies and to address violence against women. Within the UN Country Team, the Fund plays a lead role in addressing gender issues as the Chair of the Gender Theme Group.

Another huge challenge is to fulfil the MDG target related to decent and productive work for youth. The productivity, as well as the reproductive behaviour, of this large group will be a major force shaping the future of the country.

Keeping HIV from spreading to the general population is also a key priority, which is overseen by the National HIV/AIDS Control Committee. While the estimate of adult HIV prevalence in the Islamic Republic of Iran is low (0.1 percent), the number of reported cases has increased significantly, with injecting drug use (the country is located on a drug transit route) as the main route of transmission.

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Page last updated: 9 February 2006

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