(WOMENSENEWS)—Last month I ended my job reporting for this publication. What a difference four years makes.
When I joined Women’s eNews in September 2011 every story I worked on taught me something new. And almost every single day I learned things, and thought about things, that were often harsh and upsetting. One key insight came from looking at the biases and unfair treatment women face in the United States, one of the most developed countries in the world. That has brought me to the conclusion that the West is often turning its concern on women in foreign countries when women and girls in their own nations are left suffering.
I have also come to realize that addressing women’s issues and gender issues is working to uproot entrenched practices and beliefs that have defined our societies for too long. Women’s issues are not only about getting paid the same amount as men for the same work. Although that is a non-negotiable demand, I came to realize that women’s issues are also about:
- Female students attending college and not worrying about the number of rapes being reported and whether her administrators are properly investigating;
- A woman turning to the police to report being harassed or sexually assaulted without being told she “put herself in that situation” or that she has “no need to file a complaint;”
- Women and girls dressing as they please without being called names;
- Young women not finding sexualized pictures of themselves released on the Web as “revenge porn” or encountering other forms of online intimidation;
- Female students attaining higher education without drowning in debt that will take longer to pay back because they will most likely be paid less than their male counterparts;
- Women and girls finding teams and sports opportunities wherever they live;
- Muslim women covering and veiling themselves as their religious beliefs guide them and not to be called submissive and oppressed;
- Women of minority groups speaking for themselves, not needing liberation by others;
- Girls and women being safe to drive to a Planned Parenthood clinic without getting harassed by anti-abortion activists;
- Women being treated as responsible adults by U.S. lawmakers (not children who cannot make decisions for themselves);
- Women in the U.S. not dying preventable deaths in childbirth (17.8 per 100,000 live births in 2011) and everyone understanding why black women are dying from delivery and labor complications at a higher rate (42.8 deaths per 100,000 live births);
- New mothers in the U.S. not worrying that they must return to work a few days after childbirth or being unable to pay her bills;
- Mothers in the U.S. being able to stay home with sick children without fearing loss of pay;
- Mothers being able to breastfeed in public without fear of reprisal or censure;
- Women who have been battered by powerful intimate partners–athletes, entertainers—no longer having to believe their abusers are too big to fail;
- Black women who die at the hands of police getting the same attention and media coverage as male counterparts;
- Women feeling free to express their concerns without being told they are “too emotional;”
- Female politicians running for office without having reporters focus on their thinness or fashionability;
- Female entrepreneurs and CEOs and even little girls succeeding without being derided as “bossy;”
- Girls having an education in any country and deciding for herself when and whether to marry;
- Indigenous women drawing the same amounts of media coverage as any other group (knowing that reporters will seek them out and tell their stories);
- Women moving freely in and outside their countries with no restrictions and not needing male permission;
- Women fleeing war and seeking refuge in a new country having alternatives to sexual exploitation for survival;
- Women and girls in war-torn countries not being forgotten as years pass and public interest fades;
- Arab women who were on the forefront of the Arab Spring to be full participants in the reconstruction of their respective countries;
- Women participating fully in peace and international treaty negotiations;
- Feminists embracing the concept of intersectionality, to accept and work with our differences while aspiring for fair and better treatment of women in our societies.
I could update this list every day as the work ahead to change our societies is immense. I also believe these changes can only happen if women and men work together. Men are not our enemies. They 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 is moving the cause one step forward.
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