With today being International Women's Day, I thought about this question: "If you could fix any one problem women face by clicking your fingers, what would it be?". Would you make women's pay equal to men's? Ensure that a girl's education is the same as a boy's? Stop women in high positions from receiving far more scrutiny and criticism than their male equivalents? Perhaps put an end to violence against women?
There are many problems to choose from, and all need to be addressed, but if I could solve any one of them instantly, it would be violence against women. Worldwide, millions of women are abused and/or killed by their husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, uncles and men who have no family or romantic connection to them. There are women who live in permanent fear, worried that the man (or men) they have to live with or near will physically harm them or kill them if they as much as look at him the wrong way. There are girls who have grown up only knowing men to be fist-wielding bullies from the behaviour of their abusive fathers and brothers. It horrifies me to even think about what these girls and women go through, but any discomfort I receive by thinking about it pales in comparison to what the victims feel.
If the harm it causes women wasn't enough, violence against women also hurts men. The vast majority of men would never want to step on a woman's foot by accident, let alone beat or kill her, but thanks to the men who are violent against women, most if not all men are viewed negatively and suspiciously (not just by women, but also by other men) as a consequence. How does a woman know that a man won't go from being friendly and reasonable one moment to a thug the next? In nearly all cases, these fears weren't necessary, but the existence of woman-beating men causes these fears and does justify them on too many occasions. If violence against women ended, women would no longer have to worry when men interact with them and men wouldn't be regarded as a "potential threat until proven otherwise" (this blog post is related).
Obviously, violence and all the other issues women face cannot be solved by clicking one's fingers. Also, just because today is International Women's Day doesn't mean this should be the sole day of the year to think about women's issues while ignoring them for the other 364 days. If, regardless of what day of the year, we all do our part to help women, no matter how small, we can ensure that they will be truly equal and safe.