Jensine Larsen’s journalism career began when she was a painfully shy 19-year-old listening to the story of indigenous women whose children were dying from oil contamination on their native lands in the Ecuadorian Amazon. She said their eyes were hopeful as they begged her to please tell their story. She seized on journalism as a way to do that, but the inspiration for the online platform she founded – World Pulse – didn’t happen until after she heard the stories of refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing and mass rape on the Burma-Thai border. Amidst her hopelessness in the middle of the night came a vision of the stars as blue light unlocking women’s voices and “creating a cascade chain reaction of one voice unlocking other voices and circling the globe.”
But the internet wasn’t interactive yet, so World Pulse did not become an overnight reality. Instead, it became an award-winning magazine with limited reach. Jensine said that about the time Mark Zuckerberg was imagining the power of Facebook, she saw the same possibilities of connection in World Pulse. With no technological expertise and few resources, she and a few others “drew the rooms of the website” and she went door to door asking women to invest, which they did in $50 and $100 increments until she reached $100,000 and launched the World Pulse website. Then they waited. She said, “Soon the voices started logging on from all different countries of the world in situations of conflict, post-election violence, really remote rural areas. And they were crying out.” There was relief in their voices that they finally had a safe place to tell their stories. That’s when World Pulse was truly born as a sanctuary for women in danger who needed help. It developed its own culture of solidarity, and today has grown into a technological force for good, connecting 80,000 women and impacting 21.6 million lives.
From Telling a Story to Activism and Mentorship
World Pulse has a very robust safety and security response team and process for cybersecurity. They are quick to provide new pictures and identities for participants of their website when political groups or governments threatens their members. Jensine said that no one has ever been threatened for their actions on World Pulse, but many have become activists to help women in their countries and place themselves directly in harm’s way. One such woman in Pakistan was cyber-blackmailed and reached out to World Pulse with her story when she was at the point of suicide. Finding a community of women like her, she realized that she was not alone, decided to live and kept networking on World Pulse until she found lawyers and supporters. Today, she helps hundreds of girls through her cyber clinic for girls who are experiencing online violence.
World Pulse Goals
Jensine said that they have three main goals:
- First, their long term vision is “to digitally connect half a million changemakers who impact a billion more.” While that may seem ambitious, their impact data shows that “when women leaders get enough support and connections, they impact 2,000 more.” So they intend to become a digital leadership accelerator, and use technology for purposeful change. You can become an encourager. Read the stories and comment on them. Let the women know someone is listening. You can earn an Encourager badge by making sure every voice gets heard.
- Second, they are working to raise the volume on these voices. Jensine said that they don’t get on the front page of the newspaper, so they are promoting them in media and forging more content partnerships to “give these voices the light of day.” They have also created an awards program to inspire women to tell their stories. Along with this initiative, they are building an “incubator movement lab to nurture the budding movements that are connecting across borders sometimes whether it’s around menstrual health or widows’ rights or disability rights.”
- Third, World Pulse is partnering with Women Connect4Good and others to expand the mentorship program, providing a safe and structured way to build mentorship relationships.
What You Can Do
Listen to or watch this Conversation for more of the World Pulse story. Check out the website, worldpulse.com; read stories and leave comments to lift women up and encourage more stories. If you have an expertise that can help another woman, become a mentor. You could also become a change funder and sign up for an automatic donation of $10-$20 a month. Jensine says that funds go directly to World Pulse community members for honorariums, technology stipends or for their movement building work. She said, “Small amounts of money can have a big impact on World Pulse.” And everyone has something different to offer, whether it’s resources, time, energy or skills, technology offers a platform to become a force—your force for good.