On the day after the International Day of Girls and Women in Science 2022, I celebrated my 40th birthday. It is hard to believe that the girl who was 4 years old in the photo is now 10 times older. But one thing I am sure of is that this little girl has become more than 10 times wiser and eager to live because she has found her path.
My name is Encieh and I was born in Iran into a very ordinary family. The ordinary family after the revolution in 1979 means a traditional and religious one. Tradition and religion played and still have an important role in my life as a girl and unfortunately were deterrents in most cases. As a girl in such a society, you soon realize the differences, but for many years you do not realize that they amount to discrimination, and when you realize it your conflict begins with yourself, your family, and society. As a girl, I chose the path of science to fight discrimination because it gave me awareness and freedom.
I never imagined that my childish interest in gazing at stars in summers when I slept in the yard at my grandmother’s house would determine the path of my life. This interest in astronomy became more serious at university by studying physics. My interest in astronomy led me to continue my doctoral studies abroad and leaving Iran showed me a more equal world. A world that allowed me to show my true self without fear of being criticized by others, and that means the beautiful sense of liberation that gave me the courage to change for the better. And this path of improvement has been going on for years. The pleasure of being with the stars was so beautiful that I share this pleasure with others, and I have been promoting astronomy for many years, and I am currently a professor of astronomy at an Iranian university. As the first woman on the board of the Iranian Astronomical Society since its inception, in 2021 I established its women branch to support and encourage girls who, like me, live in the sky and among the stars. For that 4-year-old girl in the photo, learning science is still the wing of freedom.