Nowruz (pronounced no-rooz), also known as Persian New Year, is a holiday marking the arrival of spring and the first day of the year in Iran and other countries like Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, whose solar calendar begins with the vernal equinox. Nowruz, which means “new day”, is celebrated by the over 300 million people around the world who are a part of the Persian diaspora. The day of Nowruz kicks off a 13-day celebration of dinners, family visits, and reflections on the year ahead as individuals welcome a season of new life and renewal. This year Nowruz will take place on Monday, March 20th.
Your local Planned Parenthood is spotlighting an employee who embodies our WE CARE values to share their story and highlight what Nowruz means to them. Please meet Sadaf Rahmani, Public Affairs Director, as she shares how her heritage has shaped the work that she does at Planned Parenthood.
What inspired you to get into this type of work?
I've always felt strongly about creating a world where everyone can live with dignity and respect. My frustration with so many people facing injustice and discrimination, inspired me to find a career where I could make a difference. That's how I ended up at Planned Parenthood - it's an organization that's all about empowering individuals and communities to make informed decisions about their healthcare and their lives. Working here lets me combine my passion for social justice with my desire to make a real impact in people's lives. It's not always easy work, but it's deeply rewarding and I'm grateful to be a part of it.
What do you feel is the most exciting part of your job?
One of the most exciting parts of my job is seeing our advocacy and electoral efforts come to fruition. Like, when a historical package of pro-reproductive rights legislation gets passed, or when we help elect pro-abortion candidates at all levels of government. It's amazing to feel like we're really making a difference and that all of our hard work is paying off. Another part is when our advocates get excited about something we've created for them. Whether it's a new program or a resource that we've put together, seeing people engage with and benefit from our work is always super rewarding. It reminds me that we're all in this together, fighting for a better world where everyone has access to the healthcare they need and deserve.
How has your heritage shaped you into the person that you are today?
My Iranian heritage has had a huge impact on who I am today and on my work. I grew up surrounded by strong women who were constantly breaking down barriers and fighting for their basic rights, despite the legal obstacles in their way. Seeing their daily acts of resistance was incredibly empowering and motivated me to fight for justice and equality. As an Iranian, I also know firsthand how politics (national and international) can seriously impact people's everyday lives. This experience has shaped my drive to advocate for communities that are often marginalized and underserved.
Does your heritage help you connect with the people we serve or with your work?
Absolutely. Growing up in a country where bodily autonomy and reproductive rights are often restricted, I understand firsthand the importance of having access to this care. Many of the people we serve face similar obstacles in accessing healthcare and in having their voices heard. Additionally, my heritage has given me a unique perspective on the broader systemic issues that impact access to reproductive rights and healthcare, both in the United States and around the world. It's helped me see the work we do at Planned Parenthood as part of a larger movement for justice.
What does Persian New Year mean to you?
Nowruz, or Persian New Year, is a special time for my family and me. It's a time to shake off the old, welcome the new, and set new intentions for the year ahead. I see Nowruz as a time to remember that no matter what challenges we face, there's always hope for renewal and growth.
Do you have any traditions that are especially important to you?
On Nowruz, I have a few traditions that are especially important to me. One of the biggest ones is gathering with family and friends. We start by spring cleaning the house to prepare for the new year, and then we set up the "sofre haftseen". This is a table decorated with seven symbolic items, each of which begins with the Persian letter "sin". Here's what each item represents:
- "Sabzeh" (sprouts) - represents rebirth and growth
- "Samanu" (sweet pudding) - represents fertility and the sweetness of life
- "Senjed" (dried fruit) - represents love and affection
- "Sir" (garlic) – represents good health
- "Sib" (apple) - represents beauty
- "Somāq" (sumac) – represents new beginnings
- "Serkeh" (vinegar) - represents patience and wisdom
As we gather around the "sofre haftseen", we enjoy delicious food like sabzi polo with mahi (fried fish with herbed rice), and share stories and memories. It's a time of renewal, reflection, and coming together to celebrate the new year with loved ones.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I encourage everyone to learn more about Persian culture, especially during this time when Iran is frequently in the news due to ongoing protests. Despite facing deadly crackdowns, Iranians continue to fight for their rights and freedom, and it's important to understand the historical and cultural context of their struggle.