In our blog article, How Digital Inclusion is Transforming the World, we discussed Equinix’s commitment to forging worldwide digital inclusion. In this article, we will be speaking with World Pulse CEO and founder, Jensine Larsen, about the transformative work World Pulse is doing in digital empowerment and the substantive impact it has made on the lives of millions of women and the world. World Pulse is an Equinix Impact Grant recipient.
Q: How did you conceive the idea behind World Pulse?
A: Growing up as a shy, home-schooled girl in the rural Wisconsin, I felt my voice had not developed and decided to discover it through traveling the world and learning from other women. As a freelance journalist in the Amazon and the Thai-Burma border, I met incredible women who asked me to take their messages out to the world ̶ whether it was oil contamination, children with skin cancer, ethnic cleansing, or whatever struggle they were facing.
That was the spark for creating World Pulse, but instead of me carrying their messages, I wanted to enable them to speak for themselves. That was the ultimate game changer ̶ having women speak in their own words and finding their own solutions to drive their own destinies.
Q: World Pulse was a successful, award-winning print publication, why did you go digital?
A: The magazine started in 2004 before Web 2.0. However, women were emailing us their stories from all over the world ̶ the Congo, Siberia, Southeast Asia ̶ so a print magazine was no longer practical. By moving to an interactive social network, we maximized our communications network, putting more women in direct contact with each other to create the largest impact.
Today we have over 40,000 women from 190 countries impacting over 2.2 million lives. Our long-term goal is to connect 10 million women impacting billions.
Q: How is World Pulse furthering digital inclusion around the world?
A: World Pulse provides three core services: a safe, supportive community for women through blogging and collaboration, greater digital skills through digital empowerment training, and we raise the volume on women’s voices by disseminating their content more broadly worldwide. Our online community is a place where women share their struggles with political, economic or health issues and gain awareness and support from other women around the world. Our resource bulletin board connects women with business mentors, research, medical supplies, computers or anything else that can fill a need. We have a women- training-women program called “Each One Teach Five,” where we’ve provided in-depth training to 150 women and they have gone on to train more than 2,500 other women.
Q: Where have you seen the impact of the digital training you have provided?
A: One example of how digital training has had an enormous impact is in the Congo – one of the most violent places for women in the world. We trained a few women leaders in Eastern Congo and then, they wanted to bring digital empowerment to other women. So they launched women-only Internet centers. Soon they built an online movement of 800 “Hero Women” (“Maman Shujaa” in Swahili) speaking out on WorldPulse.com. When rebel attacks threatened the region, the women leaders wanted their voices to reach the White House to stop the violence. World Pulse partnered with Change.org and the Enough Project to launch an online appeal, and delivered over 100,000 signatures to the White House, successfully petitioning the government to appoint a U.S. special envoy to the region.
We are also working with the women to help them to disseminate their content more broadly – to influence where money goes and how policies are set on girls’ education, economic empowerment, digital access, etc. Last year, we compiled information on ways to better improve digital access from women in 70 countries and presented it to the top 20 global technology companies to better improve digital inclusion for women in their products and policies. We have also presented information to the United Nations, U.S. State Department and G20 summit, growing the collective impact of women’s voices and building bridges to create real global change.
Whether putting a stop to atrocities such as breast ironing in Cameroon, or fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan, women are learning from other women all over the world through the digital education that World Pulse provides.
Q: How are the funds and support you have received from the Equinix Impact Program furthering your goals?
A: The Equinix Impact Grant is a big part of enabling our digital empowerment training – we’ll be developing a new class that provides women worldwide with technology stipends and training. With the support from Equinix, there will be a huge ripple effect for the global community since one digitally-trained woman can impact hundreds, sometimes thousands, of lives.
We’ve also been working with 12 volunteers from the Equinix Women Leaders Network to play active roles as “listeners,” supporting the women in the World Pulse network. This gives the Equinix employees a real opportunity to learn first-hand from women all over the world and provide support to the community. Just by posting a single comment from one woman can fundamentally change her life and set her on a course of believing in herself. These women from Equinix will make a big difference to hundreds of women around the world.
I also love that Equinix talks about “where opportunity connects” because it means supporting connections and illustrates the corporate world is moving away from a top-down charitable model to one of sharing and reciprocity.