Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer fighting for the rights of women, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday, calling her selection for the award an “inspiration” to women around the world.

“Undoubtedly, my selection will be an inspiration to the masses of women who are striving to realize their rights, not only in Iran, but throughout the region–rights taken away from them through the passage of history,” Ebadi said at the awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

“This selection will make women in Iran, and much further afield, believe in themselves. Women constitute half of the population of every country,” she continued. “To disregard women and bar them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life would in fact be tantamount to depriving the entire population of every society of half its capability.”

“The patriarchal culture and the discrimination against women, particularly in the Islamic countries, cannot continue forever.”

The speech drew an enthusiastic response from those at the ceremony and from viewers around the world. On the Muslim Web site, Muslim WakeUp!, one reader wrote, “For the human rights activists from an Islamic background, this should be the ‘I have a dream . . .’ (Martin Luther King) speech that should inspire the Islamic human rights movement to a new level of commitment and effectiveness!”

Some in the U.S. were critical of her speech for its pointed challenge of the Iraq war, while others praised her for her equally strong comments about the intolerance of free speech and women’s rights throughout the Arab region.

She ended her speech with a plea for a peaceful future: “If the 21st century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, acts of terror and war, and avoidrepetition of the experience of the 20th century–that most disaster-ridden century of humankind, there is no other way except by understanding and putting into practice every human right for all mankind, irrespective of race, gender, faith, nationality or social status.”


The National Association for Female Executives Tuesday released a survey indicating that on average, women’s wages across 21 fields lag far behind men’s. According to the survey, from 1991-2001, the wage gap between men and women closed by less than 2 percent–at this rate, women’s wages will draw even with men’s by the year 2123, or 120 years from now.

Women in sales make $30,000 less than men per year; women in accounting, advertising, law and public relations earn approximately $20,000 less than men per year; female journalists make $9,000 less than their male colleagues and women working full-time, year-round earn on average 76 percent of what a man brings home, working a similar schedule.

Betty Spence, president of the association, said the wage gap will hit baby boomer women the hardest. “If you think the wage gap’s bad now, just wait,” she says. “Women live longer than men, so we need more retirement savings. But we earn less than men do, so it’s harder to save.”

Spence added that Congress has not taken the proper steps to legislate against the type wage discrepancies present in the workplace.

“In jobs which are identical, the unexplained wage gap can only be attributed to the subtle discrimination that women face in the workplace,” Spence told Women’s eNews.

— Carline Bennett.