Over the years, International Women’s Day has gained a different meaning to me. In the past, it used to be a day to meet friends that I hadn’t met for a long time or to relax,  but recently I have developed a very different feeling. After witnessing forced migration first-hand, everything changed, together with the meaning of some of the celebrations.

Since MOAS’ first mission at sea, topics like gender equality, violence against women, human trafficking  and sexual slavery stopped being theoretical reflections and became devastating experiences captured by women’s testimonials. I can’t deny that I could see myself in the many women rescued by MOAS’ vessels.

In every girl, I could see my adolescent self or my daughter – dirty and terrified- on a dinghy in distress after months of abuse. And the contrast in my imagination couldn’t be more dramatic. On the one hand, my daughter and I were shaping our future and experiencing our first love affairs in a safe place -surrounded and protected by the love of our families. On the other hand, countless women escaped unimaginable realities and experienced fear, abuse but with determination to follow their dreams.

However, it was in mothers’ hugs that I could see myself the most. Their hugs embodied a perfect circle to contain infinite love, as well as a desire  for protection and their hope for a peaceful future. But, when I hug my daughter to support her during her personal development, the situation is totally different, because I don’t have to pretend to be safe and confident in spite of fearful feelings. How can you explain to your daughter that everything will be fine, after being raped and tortured in a Libyan prison, in a country at the mercy of armed criminals?

After the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh, people were grateful for being treated at the MOAS Aid Stations. Women, men and children waited in line to receive medical assistance, and this was an extraordinary event for  those who had fled Myanmar after spending their lives amid persecution and marginalisation. While listening to Jharu whose husband was slaughtered in front of her, I could only imagine out how difficult it had to be to take care of her family alone. “How can I protect my daughters in an overcrowded camp, where  anyone can kidnap them?”, she asked me. And I bitterly recalled the many times when I was worried about my daughter while she was playing in our safe courtyard.

In Yemen, children are the first victims of a never-ending conflict that constantly violates International Law, by bombing schools, targeting hospitals, burning silos and preventing the distribution of medical and food aid. We all remember Amal , the Yemeni girl who died from starvation. We were briefly moved after seeing her picture and before turning our attention to something else. We all remember her skin, her bones, her eyes filled with incredulity and surprise, as well as her unfair death. But, who remembers her family? Who remembers all the girls deprived of school or forced into child marriage?

Who thinks about all the parents who experience daily the unnecessary deaths of their children due to war or extreme poverty? Who thinks about those who struggle every day to eat, to be in a warm place or to receive medical care? Who can imagine how it feels to hold in your arms a malnourished child who has no strength to play, whilst elsewhere else food is wasted?

Today it’s difficult even to help those in need. Fake news and hate speeches poison our daily routine with rampant indifference and resentment. We live in our small, private world. If the people I love and I are safe, who cares about the others? If someone wants to help, there must be hidden interests behind their choice. The fact is that we have lost the mercy and the feelings of brotherhood that unite us as members of the same human family. It’s so easy to stop reading an article, switch our mobile off, turn the page of a newspaper and forget what happens in other regions of the world. Above all, it’s so easy to think that it’s not our fault. This has nothing to do with us.

But, it’s false. For many years, MOAS has been highlighting that it’s pure illusion to think that migration doesn’t affect us all. It’s so stupid to think that humanitarian crises or emergencies don’t affect humankind as a whole, especially when they target our own future by attacking children.

This is why I hope that women will be more and more involved in peace talks and negotiations to solve humanitarian crises and will obtain high-level roles both at institutional and business level. My wish is that women’s networking ability will overcome divisions and barriers, and female diplomacy will take action to build a new world.

In light of this, on  International Women’s Day 2019, I want to celebrate every woman and girl met during MOAS’ missions at sea and on land. I also celebrate the women working at MOAS who are committed to supporting our activities, as well as every little girl in a remote camp who dreams to study. Please be aware that you are not alone, but other women and girls support you every day.

To women and to their bravery!

This article was originally posted by HuffPost Italia

Please click here to read the Italian article