Sarah, USA

sarah

Dear World,

This letter comes too late for my sisters and brothers around the world but it’s not too late for our children and grandchildren. We are living in an age of war and at this rate, generations will grow up without ever knowing what a peaceful life is. We can change that, but it starts with you – and it starts now.

I need you to teach your sons that teamwork is more important than competition, and that ideas can have more power than force. Teach your sons that women deserve respect, unequivocally, that consent is always a necessity and that physical abuse is never acceptable. Teach your sons to ask questions with an open mind and respect other points of view, even if they disagree. Teach your sons to stand up for what they believe in, but to never be afraid to change their perspective if they learn new information.

I need you to teach your daughters that it’s good to be confident, even cocky, when they have worked hard and accomplished something. Teach your daughters that they should never feel ashamed of their bodies or how they look. Teach your daughters that they deserve respect, unequivocally, and that consent is always a necessity and that physical abuse is never acceptable. Teach your daughters to stand up for themselves even if it seems everyone is against them.

Have hard conversations. Hear the other person’s ideas – don’t just listen. Act with empathy and understanding. Remember to differentiate between the actions of governments and those of individuals. And if you don’t understand a point of view, a culture, a tradition, a religion: learn.

We live in an age of war, but we also live in an age of knowledge and connection. Do your research. Ask your questions. Be unabashed in your quest for information. Be respectful of the answers you may find. Find your similarities and your differences with friends around the world, and learn to appreciate both.

Together, all of us can create ripples of change. Together, we can change what the future looks like, so our sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and grandchildren can live in an age of peace.

It starts now. And it starts with you.

Sincerely,

Sarah

Age 21, United States of America

Women2Women Delegate

Hannah, The Netherlands

Dear World,

What are we doing? There is so much hatred and anger in the world we live in. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to change this. Oppression, violence, and hatred are engraved in humanity. In order to create peace, we need to be able to forgive. Decades of injustice can only be stopped if we learn to forgive. Creating peace is not a one-man or one-woman job. It requires us all to work together, even with the people that have hurt us the most. Of course, this is easy for me to say and I realize that, but it is the only way to truly move forward.

We also need to be more thoughtful towards each other. It is very easy to form an opinion when you only see your own perspective. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel if you were treated differently than others? You might realize that not everything is black or white. There is a lot more grey area in this world.

The way we were raised, what we see on TV, what we read online and so many other factors influence the way we look at different social groups. In different parts of the world different social groups are shown in a bad light. Our initial reaction to certain people can be explained by what we were taught to see, but we cannot use that to excuse the way we act. We all can control how we act. There are bad Black people and bad White people. There are bad Muslims, bad Christians, bad Jews, bad atheists and so on. However, that does not mean that the person in front of you is a bad person. Treat others how you would like to be treated. A little kindness goes a long way.

I aspire to forgive, to be thoughtful and not to let my surroundings cloud my judgment. I know that I was put on this world to help others. That is my purpose and I have known it since I was a little girl. I strive to do at least one good deed every day to make someone else happy.

What do you want your role to be in this world? What is your purpose? Think about and act on it, because it is our responsibility to create the world we want to live in.

Sincerely yours,

Hannah

Age 18, The Netherlands

Women2Women Delegate

Naila, Algeria

m-k-naila

Dear World,

I want to introduce you to a 9-year-old little girl. She was beautiful, pure and sensitive. She lived in a peaceful society with her parents. This girl had a normal dream, in which one day she grows up to become a very, very successful young woman. She wanted to make her daddy proud, being his only girl. She always had the dream of being one of the best girls out there representing her society. This girl is me.

Hello there, my name is Naila, I am a 21-year-old young woman from Algeria. You should have guessed my problem by now. Well, let me tell you! Racism, discrimination and hatred.

I am a Muslim woman who once was an innocent child. I didn’t choose to be a Muslim, but if I had the choice, I would defiantly choose to be one. I wear the head scarf and I choose to cover my body. My parents did not require me to wear it, it was my choice and I am absolutely happy about it.

Dear world, I beg you to listen to my story. When people judge me for what I wear, for choosing to cover myself, it tears my heart. I am fed up with people calling me a terrorist.

Dear world, I am a normal girl. Like everyone out there, I laugh, I make jokes, I paint my nails, wear high heels, I watch movies, listen to music, I dance, and I even cook. I do everything a normal American girl would do, except I choose to cover my body in front of men, and practice my religion peacefully.

What hurts the most is every time I travel outside my country, I have to deal with people’s insults. They look at me with disgust in their judging eyes, they treat me like trash, they make jokes behind my back, and most importantly they call me and my family and all the entire Muslim population TERRORISTS.

Dear world, how can you judge a whole religion by a small group of extremists? How can you judge the whole Arab Muslim world by a few people who are insane?

I have to tell you that ISIS is not killing only the non-Muslims; ISIS is murdering, kidnapping and raping Muslim people too. Have you ever thought about how many Muslim children are being murdered or tortured to death every day by these people? Think about how many women are being raped and killed every single day in Syria, Palestine and Yemen and other Muslim countries. Think about the fear and terror they face every day. Think about the peaceful Muslim families, how they have to say goodbye to their loved ones in fear of never seeing them again.

I have a vision that someday, I’ll wake up to hear on that all countries are having a huge party, celebrating a world free from all cruelty, hatred, ISIS, murder, rape, violence, and corruption. Do you think this is impossible to achieve?

I have a vision that all the countries put their weapons down. I have a vision of a unified world. I have a vision of a peaceful beautiful world, with all its breathtaking natural sights and different colors. I have a great vision in a world in which all races, colors, religions, languages and hair colors live together. I have a vision in which people are not judged by the choices they make about their religion or their body. I have a vision of a world in which no matter what you are, no matter what you wear, or who you are, you NEVER have to fear their judging glares.

Finally, whoever is reading this peaceful letter; please know that you are an amazing, beautiful soul. Never let their words sadden you. Instead, smile and continue working hard to prove them wrong. Be successful and reach your dreams just like the great person you are.

Stay always happy.

Sincerely,

M.K.Naila

Age 20, Algeria

Women2Women Delegate

Kate, USA

Dear World,

My name is Kate, and I’m 21 years old. I grew up in New York City in a small, cozy apartment with a wonderful family. I am privileged. There is no doubt about it. I am white, and of a stable socioeconomic status. My life in New York City was comfortable, my upbringing relatively easy. But I have seen traces of violence, war, hate, and injustice.

I was in first grade when 9/11 happened. I remember my mom coming to get me from school. I was mad I had to leave early and I wanted to go to gym class. My mom made me put my shirt over my mouth on the walk back to my apartment so I wouldn’t inhale the smoke. I remember sitting in front of the television watching the towers fall on a loop as our house phone rang in the background. At the time, I didn’t understand that it all happened forty blocks away from where I lived.

Throughout the years that followed, I acclimated to a post 9/11 world. George Bush invaded Afghanistan, and later Iraq. The words “weapons of mass destruction,” “drones,” and “terrorism” became part of my vocabulary. I had to take my shoes off at airports.

As the wars escalated so did Islamophobia. Hate speech and slurs permeated the news. The construction of a mosque next to ground zero resulted in anti-Muslim protests. People on the street began to point and whisper and women wearing hijabs, men with headscarves and beards were profiled by police officers on the subway. I would wonder to myself, how was this right? This behavior seen on the streets, in the news, in schools, was conditioning us to hate. It was giving us an ‘other’ to justify continued violence and war. It wasn’t fair.

In my opinion, the first step towards peace is mutual understanding. We must strive to understand that difference should not be equated with fear but should inspire us to learn. Understanding differences makes us more aware as consumers. We are able to pick out the lies, prejudice and stereotypes we are exposed to everyday.

As an American woman, I hold myself accountable to this challenge. To strive to understand and check my privilege, learn about others, and critique the institutions (both governmental and otherwise) that continue to espouse negative and harmful societal norms.

To all my powerful ladies, I encourage you to do this as well. Because why shouldn’t we be at the forefront of change?

Let’s do this.

Kate

Age 21, United States of America

Women2Women Delegate