Tehran – Fatemeh Daneshvar moves easily around the room as she speaks of her accomplishments, pausing at one point to admire a photo of her children, and at another to flip through a glossy magazine packed with images of some of the thousands of women her charity has aided.
Daneshvar, 43, now counts seven major businesses to her name, having spent years pursuing a successful career in the male-dominated mining industry. She serves on Tehran’s city council and the Iranian chamber of commerce, and has authored dozens of reports on the social problems plaguing Iran, from addiction to child labour. She donates one-fourth of her income to her own charity, Mehrafarin, which supports women and children whose fathers have abandoned them.
But of all that Daneshvar has achieved over the years, she is proudest of her work with Iran’s street kids. She runs a programme to train and support dozens of exceptional orphans, giving them a chance to succeed in the broader community.
“Once, they were just yearning for a basket of fruit; now, they want to be astronauts, the best physicists of the world,” Daneshvar tells Al Jazeera from inside her Tehran office.
Daneshvar has done all of this while raising four young children alongside her husband and business partner, and she openly acknowledges that it has not always been an easy road. Along the way, she faced resistance from traditionalist members of Iran’s business community – but she persisted, citing a need to send a message to other women in the country.
Daneshvar recently sat down with Al Jazeera to speak about how she found success in a male-dominated industry, while also challenging Western stereotypes of what it means to be a woman in Iran.