Laila, Egypt

*Art by Laila Ayoub

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Dear World,

I am Laila Ayoub, an Egyptian girl, and from the first moment I saw this post I was glad to participate. I have always wished to write to the whole world.

Living in the Eastern world and in an Egyptian society in particular, it is not easy to be a girl. We all love peace. We need peace in our daily life, we need to love each other and accept each other’s diversity. War and political conflict ruins our souls, our beauty and our innocence.

We need each country to be nourished, educated and politically stable. I always ask myself why wars exist, and I cannot find a logical answer.

In the end we must pray for a better world and we, as youth, must share our ideas and spread peaceful thoughts.

Sincerely,

Laila Ayoub

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Astrid Lucia, Denmark

Dear world,

Sometimes I feel as if you love me. You cherish me with something akin to worship. You praise my beauty and my intelligence and you praise my compassion. But sometimes, I feel as if you hate me. As if you feel that I am somehow lesser. I dislike those moments, because they make me doubt myself. I doubt my ability to make a change and I almost give up. Almost.

At times it seems especially hard to be a woman in this world. I will not belittle the fact that there are varying degrees in the hardships of being a woman; often dependent on your ethnic, cultural and religious heritage. Regardless of your own personal background, something remains inexplicably true; women face difficulties throughout all stages of life.

Some of us have the ‘luxury’ of struggling only with equal wage; some of us struggle with unpaid maternity leave. These problems, although very, very valid, are luxurious problems. They speak of a long battle within women’s rights that has lead us to being able to discuss these kinds of problems. Rights. But we mustn’t forget that there are so many women struggling with basic necessities in life. There is a huge gender inequality in regards to education. There are far too few females represented in parliaments all over the world. Far too many women experience physical and sexual violence.

So, dear world, how do we change that? How do we instill the belief in young women that anything is possible?

The ripple effect that gender equality would have for the world as a whole cannot be underestimated. Women are just as capable as men to do any job, and when it comes to peace it has been proven that women’s participation increases the probability of peace agreements being long lasting. So, what are we waiting for?

In my vision for the future, my daughter will grow up thinking that the world is at her feet. She will negotiate, be surrounded with all kinds of different cultural influences and, within that, her global citizenship will flourish. She will grow up knowing in her heart and in her mind, that nothing is impossible. Being a women is not a deterrent or a benefit, it simply is. She will fight on equal playing fields with men and other women, and gender equality for all races, religions, cultures and countries will finally be accomplished.

Dear world, I think we have a long way to go, although it seems as if we are heading in the right direction. But would you mind hurrying a bit?

Sincerely,

Astrid Lucia Offersen

18 years old

Alexandra, Belgium

Dear world,

What a time to be alive.

What a great time for technology, medicine and media. However, it is a sad time for humanity. What if technology is responsible for creating the destructive weapons you’ve lost your home to? What if you can’t reach your loved one who’s trying to get to the border of a “safer” place? What if the closest medical care facility was a 4-hour walk away?

My name is Alexandra. Almost 20 years ago I was born in Belgium to Romanian parents. I often wonder what my life would have looked like if I were born and raised in Romania. Would I have had the same education? The same chances? The same opinions? Probably not. What if I were born in Syria, Iraq, or Palestine? In that case, the answer is definitely not. I say this, not because of the way the media has portrayed these countries, but because I have personally met and talked to girls that were born and raised there. Girls that have experienced things words can’t begin to describe, so I won’t try to.

I’m not saying there’s no chance of reaching your full potential in countries like these, but it shouldn’t be an exception, it should be the norm. Every single person should have the right to defend his or her opinion without any risk. If I get the chance to go to bed feeling safe and protected, so should you.

I often think about the future because I worry about the challenges to come. What strikes me most is how casually we treat casualties these days. It frightens me that people are so used to the violence on their Facebook feed, they become indifferent to it. It frightens me that if we share a hashtag on Twitter, we think we’ve done our part. It frightens me that we feel like we can’t make a difference, so we don’t even try. We could do so much more.

I would love to think that there will be a time where every single person is equally respected, equally valued and most of all, equally represented. Until this moment, I hope that we can all be the change we want to see in this world.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Smarandescu

Alyssa, USA

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Dear world,

My name is Alyssa. I am 22 years old, and I live in Boston, USA. I wish that I could say that because I have never lived through a war in my home, I have lived a peaceful life. But peace is not simply the absence of war. Peace is an active and intentional state of being that promotes human rights, equity, and the pursuit of opportunity for all people.

So when I think of a peaceful future, I do not only think of a world where war does not exist. I think of a world where governments act not only in the interest of their own citizens but also in the interest of all people. I think of a world where not only every country is at peace, but within every country, systemic inequality is no longer the status quo, women and young people are not exploited, and our resources are used sustainability and distributed equally.

We have such a long way to go, but we can start right now. I need to demand more of myself, and of the women and men around me. We cannot hope for sweeping institutional change if we are not willing to work for peace in our own local communities, friendships, and workplaces. We must understand that building peace does not happen overnight or inside a vacuum. We must refuse to be quiet when injustices happen around us. We cannot remain quiet when we see violence in our communities, discrimination in our words, and complacency in the face of oppression.

I need men to embrace feminism as ferociously as women do. I need men to understand that hegemonic masculinity is as dangerous for men as it is for women. We need not only to integrate women — especially women of color, trans women, and disabled women – into our local, national, and global systems of power, but we need to fundamentally transform the systems of power that are fueled by the oppression of women, of people of color, and of the poor.

Change is an uncomfortable process. We cannot fight wars on the ground of securing our country while so many people, both in this country and around the world, live in a constant state of insecurity. I implore you to reconsider your definition of peace and commit to condemning bigotry, participate in uncomfortable and difficult conversations, and to hold ourselves accountable for creating a better world for the next generation of young people to inherit this beautiful, damaged planet.

Alyssa Rubin

Age 22, USA

Anissa, Libya

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Dear world,

So it’s me Anissa, but I prefer to be called Nissa. I landed in Libya 19 years ago, and I truly consider myself lucky!

As you read, know that I am not exaggerating because this letter is a place to be real. I was different from most people in Libyan society because I do not wear what is familiar as Hijab, the “head-covering veil”. I get harassed on daily bases in the streets of Tripoli, receive cyber bullies on my personal social media accounts for the way I chose to live. I get criticized by my society everyday for choosing to be educated and independent instead of starting the holy conquest to find a husband to feed, and trap myself in his cage. I have a supportive family who loves me through it all, who unconditionally loves me. I know that no matter what I do, no one can take that away from me. That makes me powerful enough to face the world.

Many girls unfortunately, don’t have such support system; they always feel like they need to behave and think in certain way in order to be accepted and loved, dear world!

I’m not sure that you know what love truly is. I’m not sure that I do myself but here is what I know: I’m not lucky for being able to go to a good university, nor am I lucky because I get to determine my own life decisions. I am not lucky because I get to do what I want and go wherever I want when I feel like it. Luck has nothing to do with any of my rights as a human being. It hurts knowing that for many girls these aren’t rights, but some sort of privilege, and they’re willing to give their rights and dreams up in order to get married. How could they!? They use the most magical, profound emotion known to man as an excuse to interfere in women’s lives—love. What kind of love is this that takes away a human’s freewill?

Us women, we are just as guilty as the rest of the world. We are not empowering each other; instead we are bringing each other down and we normalize sexism. Mothers ask their daughters to do all of the work around the household and emphasize the importance of this as a practice for their future, but what if your daughter had different plans for her future that are much bigger than just settling and starting a family? My frustration is that it is 2017 and marriage is still celebrated more than academic and professional pursuits of women. It’s time for society as a whole to re-evaluate what aspect of women’s lives we value most.

I don’t proclaim myself as a representative for my gender, but I know that if I succeeded I will inspire many more to do the same, and I am trying really hard to live up to this responsibility. I want to use this opportunity to voice an invitation to both genders; we only rise by up lifting each other. We’re two halves of the same community. My success is your success, too. We must do it if not for ourselves for the 133 million girls and women who have experienced FGM, for the 700 million women who got married as children, and for every single person whom was objectified or victimized by sexism.

My vision of the future is not as bright as wished it to be. I’m not a pessimistic person; I am a realistic one. I know that we have come a long way and things have improved over the past century, but at this point it feels like we’re moving backwards. I hope this message can be awakening. This endless world war between genders must stop before we self-
destruct.

Sincerely, Nissa