A tribute to Beth Dehghan from Dan Figgins, PhD, retired from the U.S. State Department Foreign Service Office with the rank of Counselor of Embassy. He has taught in the Political Science Department of NCSU since 1998.
Beth Dehghan. A name to conjure up. Her accomplishments are legion and her achievements are legendary. She has raised two daughters, one a nationally known immigration lawyer. Beth advocated for equal rights and opportunities for women in her native Iran at some danger to herself. The Iran government refused to issue her an exit visa to attend the landmark 1995 Bejing Conference on Women. Since that year Beth has attended every one of the annual meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations held at UN headquarters in New York City. And she has participated in the simultaneous parallel meetings of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Beth has been one of the executive members of the national planning committee for Cities for CEDAW established in 2014 and was instrumental in WomenNC receiving consultative status with the United Nations.
From the breadth of her experiences and the depth of her commitment, Beth put together, nourished, and grew an innovative organization, the North Carolina Committee for the Commission on the Status of Women, and CEDAW (the Convention – treaty – for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). The short name of the organization is WomenNC. For 10 years groups of 5 or so university women and a few men – a total of 58– have annually conducted in-depth research on the status of women in specific sectors of society in North Carolina. Then they reported the results of their research in the NGO meetings at the United Nations. The students have listened to panels from dozens of other countries and reported back to North Carolina audiences. Over the years the sophistication of the preparations has increased, e.g., Research Triangle Institute’s Global Gender Center staff now provide mentorship by supervising the research. The program is appropriately named CSW Youth Scholars Leadership Training.
The CSW Youth Scholars Leadership Training Program has been a springboard for many, if not most of the students, to pursue reforms suggested by their research. For example, one scholar was instrumental in producing a film titled “The Hunting Ground” about sexual assault on campus. The film received favorable publicity at the Academy Awards ceremony.
In addition to the CSW Youth Scholars Leadership program, Beth Dehghan founded the NC Coalition for CEDAW in 2014, beginning with adoption by Durham City and County. Now she is working to encourage other local governments to become Cities and Counties for CEDAW. This involves study of the gender equality of opportunities for government employees, and approving a budget to correct any inequalities in salary and employment.
How has Beth recruited so many dozens, even hundreds, of people to make WomenNC the continuing success that it has become? She recognizes, respects, and expresses appreciation to those who helped her to found the organization and to keep it going. She continues to actively network with numerous other women’s organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, for mutual support. She names programs after women’s movement heroines in North Carolina such as Juanita Bryant and Carolyn King.
The overarching vision of WomenNC is to raise a generation that honors women’s human rights, and respects the contributions that women make to the wellbeing of society. Beth Dehghan sets the example every day of respecting, recognizing, and appreciating all those who share these values and who participate in furthering this vision.