The 21st of August was my last day at Women's eNews after four years working as a reporter. I had almost no idea of the state of women's rights in the world when I joined Women's eNews in September 2011 as an intern. For every story I wrote I learned something new and what I learned day after day was hard to make sense of it in the 21st century. Realities for women and girls worldwide are not always glamorous. But what puzzled me the most was the amount of biases and unfair treatment women face in the United States, one of the most developed countries in the world. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that while the West was too busy looking the other way trying to save women in foreign countries, women and girls in their own nations were left suffering.
I also came to realize that addressing women and gender issues is addressing entrenched flaws in our societies. Women's issues are complex and when not addressed properly they result in damageable consequences for our societies. Consequences that will affect the social and familial tissue, the economic health of our countries, the security and the state of peace of our nations. And these consequences have immediate and long-term impacts. This is why women's issues can not be treated as a side issue but a central one.
Over the past four years, I learned that women's issues are not only about a woman getting paid the same than a man for the same job - although it is an non-negotiable demand - it is also:
for a female student to choose any college she aspires to go to without worrying of the number of rape reported on that campus and whether or not the administration investigated.
It is for a woman to feel safe enough to go to a police station after being harassed or sexually assaulted and not being told that she “put yourself in that situation” or that there is “no need not file a complaint.”
It is for a woman and/or a girl to wear a mini skirt/dress/short without being slut shamed.
It is for a young woman to not worry that sexualized pictures of herself will be released on the web which is known as “porn revenge” or online violence against women.
It is for a female student to get a higher education without drowning under debt that she will take longer to pay back because she will most likely be paid less than her male counterparts.
It is for women and girls to find teams to play any sport, anywhere.
It is for national female soccer players to get the same paycheck than male soccer players.
It is for a Muslim woman who wants to cover and wear a veil not to be called submissive and oppressed.
It is for women of minority groups to speak for themselves. They don't need to be liberated.
It is for a woman to be feel safe to drive to a Planned Parenthood clinic without being harassed by anti-abortionists who try to dissuade her.
It is for women not to be treated like children by U.S. lawmakers who want to keep telling us what we should do with our bodies.
In the U.S., it is for women not to die while giving birth (17.8 per 100,000 live births in 2011) and also to understand why black women giving birth die at a higher rate (42.8 per 100,000 live births).
In the U.S., it is for a mother to give birth without worrying that after a few days she will have to return to work or she might be unable to pay her bills.
In the U.S., it is also for a mother to be able to stay at home with her sick child without fearing that she will not be paid by her employer.
It is for a mother to be able to breastfeed in public without feeling she needs to hide.
It is for women who were/are with well-known athletes/singers/actors and were abused to stop thinking that these men are too big to fail.
It is for black women who die at the hands of police to get the same attention and media coverage than black men killed by police officers.
It is for a woman to feel free to express her concerns without being told she is “too emotional.”
It is for a female politician to run for office without having reporters questioning her thinness or her fashion style.
It is for female entrepreneurs and CEOs to be successful without being called “bossy.”
It is for a girl to have an education in any country and decide when she will ever marry.
it is for indigenous women to have the same media coverage than any other group. It is our job as reporter to go reach out to these women and tell their stories.
It is for women to move freely in and outside their countries with no restrictions and without asking permission to a male authority.
It is for women fleeing war and finding refuge in a new country to have other alternatives than being sexually exploited.
It is for the women and girls in war-torn countries to be remembered as years pass by and public interest will fade away.
It is for the Arab women who were on the forefront of the Arab Spring to be full participants in the reconstruction of their respective countries.
It is for women to have a seat at each table where peace and international deals are negotiated.
It is also for feminists to embrace the concept of intersectionality, to accept and work with one's differences while aspiring for a fair and better treatment of all women in our societies.
I could update this list every day as the work ahead to change our societies is immense. Yet, these changes can only happen if we, women and men, work all together. Yes, Men are our best allies. As Hillary Clinton said years ago “women's rights are human rights,” hence it is a cause that concerns all of us and that we should all work toward. Every single action taken in that direction will move the cause one step forward.