Leila Gharavi on gender, sports and Iranian New Year’s traditions


Written by: ENA5 students with Ti Grimm-Svahn

We had the pleasure to receive a visitor in English class the other day. Our guest, Leila Gharavi, was born in Iran. At school, she was interested in physics and mathematics, but also in sports. In 1998 she moved to Sweden to study and after completing her degree, she was offered a job by Nokia and thus she moved to Finland where she worked as a telecommunications engineer. After working for Nokia for about ten years, she started feeling like something was missing, so she decided to quit her job to pursue her second passion; sports. She began studying sports management and it was her work with the Finnish Sports Federation on women and sports that took her onto the path of her current topic of interest, which is gender studies.

One of the great challenges when it comes to gender studies is the fact that language and terminology is not always very clear. Leila started off by talking about the difference between equality and equity. Equality means that everyone is treated the same, while equity means that everyone is treated according to their individual needs so that the result is a fair treatment of everybody. By using pictures and slides Leila made the talk easy to follow and fun.

Bringing clarity to the way we think and talk about gender issues was one of Leila’s primary goals. And by distinguishing between the realm of biology, on the one hand, and the realm of sociology on the other, this can be achieved. By using language so that it is clear whether we are talking about people’s bodies (biology) or about how they behave in groups (sociology), we can avoid some of the confusion that sometimes surrounds discussions about gender.

At the end of her talk Leila also told us a bit about her native country Iran. We learnt interesting things about the country’s geography, history and traditions. We learnt, for example, that a different calendar is used in Iran. In this calendar the spring equinox marks the beginning of the new year. As a consequence, they celebrated New Year’s Eve in Iran just a couple of days ago. The new year is celebrated with the family and special traditional food is made and eaten during this festival. Leila mentioned a number of similarities to Finnish Easter traditions such as decorative eggs and an Iranian version of the Finnish Easter delicacy ‘mämmi’.