Photo: UN Photo/Logan Abassi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fate of the United States Hinges on Connection to Women Globally

Jensine Larsen, World Pulse Founder and CEO, responds to messages pouring in from women leaders across the world after the US election.

The message I heard from women around the world to women in the US was: 'We are here for you. And, we need you to be here for us.'

Jensine | US

The wellbeing of a nation has been proven to be directly tied to the wellbeing of its women. My country, the United States, is in free-fall. 

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2015 the US dropped out of its top 20 status for global gender equity to 28th place. In 2016 we plummeted to 45th  place. Last year, the United Nations sent three investigators to the US who stated they were shocked at national conditions for women, issued an alarming report, and concluded that “US women don’t know what they are missing.”

This, prior to our recent election. 

 

After the Election

For the first 48 hours following the announcement of the results of the 2016 US election, I was inundated with the pings and chimes of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and World Pulse. These were the sounds of incoming dispatches from women leaders all across the world. Many of these women have had their own experiences of surviving and resisting authoritarian strongman regimes, and they were contacting me to comfort, to relate, to advise, and to motivate.

“I already knew this would happen,” messaged Martha from Colombia, her country only now emerging from a five-decade war that has displaced over 6 million people. Colombia’s people have many times elected hardliner presidents.

“Yes, I am crying for the forests and for our climate,” she said. “Yet, many of us see the US as a nation that has so much economic and military power that it has forgotten to be humble. Since no other country could challenge them, it has challenged itself. Its own people will challenge them to be a better nation from this.”

“We had brought out our dancing clothes and planned to dance all night to celebrate a woman president,” said Leah from Kenya, who lived through her country’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. She remembered the gunfire that erupted all around her home as candidates pitted ethnic groups against each other, ultimately causing Kenya to spiral into a deep humanitarian crisis.  “Although I am sad about the US result, you have to be grateful that there is a peaceful transition of power and that the protests are peaceful ones—keep them that way,” she cautioned.

Leina from Cameroon, a country currently in chaos due to high rates of marginalization of minorities and suppression of free expression, acknowledged the sadness we as Americans feel, but pushed us to pull ourselves together. “Come on my US sisters—there is no time for the long faces. You know the eagle flies the highest in the eye of the storm. We can do this together. Let’s go!”

Tam, from Canada, whose country is recovering from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a leader who oversaw a systematic crackdown on civil society groups, wrote: “To my sisters in the USA… you have been our inspiration. Thank you for the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-War movements, the Union movements, the Anti-Poverty movements. Now, it is your turn to let us tell you how much we love you. Thanks to you, my commitment has only been galvanized more strongly. I stand with you—we can make the change together.” 

On World Pulse, Olutosin from Nigeria wrote in to advise US women to learn from the struggles of her country’s women. “Abacha was dumped on our shoulders, forced upon us in a military coup. He was a cruel killer. Although it was a tough time, Nigerians united in love, undaunted in the face of oppression. We fought with our might, and we won in the end. To my sisters and brothers in the United States—especially those who are white—this is the time to become the embodiment of what your nation stands for: a land of free speech and freedom. America is not the land of free hate speech. This is the time to stand for what you believe.”

Most women I spoke with were saddened, but not surprised. Corrupt, violent, incompetent rule is too real for them.

And yes, women leaders of color in the United States living the ever-present racism and sexism that exists in our society, also were not surprised. Early morning the day after the election 100 women of color leaders released a united statement on a professional website all organized and ready to go. “Our work did not start, and has not ended, with this election,” they said. “As women of color, as leaders, we will build and lead us on a path forward. We know that the future and wellbeing of this country depends on the health and wellbeing of all women.”

Above all, the message I heard in the aftermath of Election Day from women around the world to women in the US was: “We are here for you. And, we need you to be here for us. We hope you see now. Our fates are bound up together.”

Part of the Same Playbook

We in the US must not fool ourselves into thinking this election result is an isolated case. We are in the midst of an ominous global phenomenon. Authoritarian-style patriarchal democracy is on the ascent.

The Philippines elected Rodrigo Duterte in May, who is notoriously associated with macho-style rule and extrajudicial killings. During his campaign, he commented that when he saw the dead body of a woman who was gang-raped, he should have been the first to rape her. In Turkey, government militarization and jockeying have resulted in limited rights for women and skyrocketing violence and harassment against them. In Russia, Vladimir Putin continues to extend his paternalistic grip and dictators in Central Asia are now the norm. Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff was impeached this year and replaced by Michel Temer who appointed an all white male cabinet that itself faces multiple corruption charges. Not since the 1970s has Brazil, a country with more than 100 million women, seen zero women in its cabinet.

In India, Narendra Modi came to power in a 2014 landslide election victory.

Via a Skype video call, I spoke with Stella from Hyderabad, India. “Let me tell you how this goes,” she said, referring to the impending US presidency. “Here in India we experienced a very similar thing. We elected Modi, who is known to use hate speech against Muslims and incite Hindu mobs that carry out riots and attacks against moderates, including women who speak out against injustice. Once he was elected, he appeared to become more moderate and say all the right things, but it is the violence of his followers that we still have to contend with; that is the biggest problem.”

These examples are all part of the same playbook. Across the world, established powers are using economic and social insecurity to position strongman candidates as saviors. Once in power, they extract resources for profit, spread misinformation, hate, misogyny, and use communication strategies to suppress and silence dissent. Not surprisingly these men in power are forming their own club: Putin, Modi, and Duterte were the first to congratulate the US president-elect.

Even the global Internet is becoming colonized by masculine vitriol and power plays. Online harassment of women and minorities is spiking. The US President-elect's strategic advisor ran the Breitbart media platform, which features articles about why women should be banned from using the web.

We in the US, particularly the white middle class, are just getting a taste of this phenomenon firsthand. This consolidation of worldwide male dominance and militarization is not going away on its own in four years—or eight—without a courageous crusade. Nor can we hunker down domestically and go it alone within our own borders. It’s going to take something much, much bigger to quell the rising tide of aggressive, masculine leadership—something that can only be born by uniting with women globally.

Our Window is Here

We have a short window of time to take matters into our own hands. It is time to own the power we have as women and begin co-creating the world we want for our children. Our economic power is a sleeping giant, we are large in numbers, and access to technology has reached a point where uniting across borders is possible on a scale never seen before. We must awaken to the reality of what is at stake if we don’t join hands and act. We only need to connect the dots between bombings of pediatric units in Syria, water cannons at Standing Rock, and mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo to understand how far things can go. We are not immune anywhere.

Fortunately, women’s and civil society movements across the globe can show us how to galvanize across steep divides. The women of Rwanda forged healing after genocide. Today women make up over 60% of Rwanda’s Parliament. In Liberia, Christian and Muslim women united to peacefully stand up to the armed warlords and elect the first woman president. In fact, a telling recent 30-year study conducted across 70 countries showed that the common denominator for the strongest and most lasting reduction in national violence was not governments and policy—it was strong women’s networks.

Given this, I am convinced that we must work to speed up the exchange of information and resources across women-led networks. We need to connect women who are leading change in isolated pockets with each other so that we can maximize and replicate the strategies that are working: rural organizing and awareness raising; movement-building with self-care at the center; sophisticated communication campaigns; engaging men and boys; sustainable, inclusive economic development models.

Indeed, having made it my job to listen to women across the globe for the past decade, I have learned that despite vast differences and diverse languages and cultures, we have more in common than we think.  When it comes to the most precious things we care about: safety, health, education, and freedom for ourselves and our families—we agree.

Now, more than ever, we as women must step up and be bridge builders together—inside and outside US borders.

There are significant racial, class, urban, and rural divides between women in the US to address, and approximately 53% of white women voted for the incoming president-elect. Yet, there are untapped areas for common ground that we fail to recognize and convert into political power. Ironically, when Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake came together to conduct nationwide surveys of US women in their book, What Women Really Want, they found that approximately 80% of women agreed on 80% of major issues. They noted that if US women could find their commonalities they would be a potent force to make great strides in education, healthcare, and better economic policies for working families. The problem, they uncovered, is that women on either side of the political divide weren’t talking to each other and didn’t assume that they held similar views to other women, therefore squandering their potential clout. 

A Worldwide Web of Women

To build this clout at the global levels, one of the fastest strategic vehicles we have to mobilize women, and those who support them, are digital communication infrastructures. As climates of violence and suppression increase around us, we need to grow and reinforce these virtual sanctuaries and networks that help foster the exchange of information and solutions.

This moment is one of the loudest wake-up calls for women to lead and keep weaving a web of support and strength, ever wider, online and offline, across the globe. This web will be our most resilient global economic plan and our most secure global security strategy. It will be our immune system for the Earth. As for the technology we hold in the palms of our hands, we hold the power to transform cell phones and social networks from weapons of “mass distraction” to portals of purposeful connection and change.

If you are asking yourself should I take action nationally or internationally, you are giving yourself a false choice. We need both. Women’s movements globally have been through this—are going through this—and can guide us. If we reach out to each other we will surprise ourselves. We will find openings for progress we cannot even begin to imagine.   

Because when women thrive, nations thrive.

Shortly after the election, Sister Zeph, a teacher in Pakistan who faces death threats for her efforts to educate girls in her community, wrote into World Pulse. She was shocked and devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss.

“When we see that, even in the 21st century, one of the most educated and advanced nations in the world will not accept an extremely qualified woman as president, we realize how much work still needs to be done to achieve equality for women. We wonder: If it is still impossible for a woman to become president in the US, then what is possible for the women who are not free to make their own choices in life, even choices about what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep, and when to wake up? And what about the women who bear so much pain that their only hope is life after death in heaven?”

But she also had a call to action for the world.

“Today, we have the opportunity to become more vocal for women’s rights than ever,” she writes. “If we keep silent, our daughters will have to face the same world we face now. They will be qualified and prepared to lead, but no one will accept them as leaders. They will be rejected just because they are women... this election is a defeat of equality—but it is NOT a defeat of women. To prove this, we have to be united as women now.”

She is just one of many women who are reaching out to the women in the US with outstretched arms to help us thrive—and we will find them if we stretch out our own.


Take Action

Listen to the guidance of US women of color leaders and connect for action.

Listen to the guidance of global women leaders and connect for action.

63Send Me Love

Comments

Dear Jensine, 

Thank you for writing this. It moved me so deeply, your words laying out a blueprint for the future we want. And with the important reminder to be realistic about where we are currently.  I am reenergized knowing we have such a powerful network of support. Yes, our window is here and we must act now.

For nearly 8 years I have been a World Pulse member and I have felt the energy and connection that can transform everything!  

Warmly,

Carrie

 

 

 

Thank you Carrie for your words and for bringing your energy to World Pulse for 8 YEARS - we all benefit from your energy and you've helped create what we are today.  Lead on!!

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

That means so much, thank you.  I love what is created on World Pulse, because, like you, I feel that our future hinges on connecting with women globally. Huge hugs of gratitude to you! 

Busayo, my sister - you are creating healing volcano of voices in Nigeria ---when we join our volcanoes we will be the ring of voices that heals the world!!

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Dear Jensine,

Your message is heart touching. Putting our hands and voices together, will cause tremendous impact in our different communities.

The picture is really amazing, women holding  hands pulling each other up a very steep hill; Wow!!!

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers.

Sophie Ngassa

Founder & Director at CYEED

http://www.cyeed.net/

To me, the following excerpt from Jensine's post expresses very well the fierce urgency of now and is the heart of her call to action:

"It is time to own the power we have as women and begin co-creating the world we want for our children. Our economic power is a sleeping giant, we are large in numbers, and access to technology has reached a point where uniting across borders is possible on a scale never seen before. We must awaken to the reality of what is at stake if we don’t join hands and act."

Dear Jensine,

In as much as this editorial is heartbreaking, it gives me hope. It shows me how powerful women are and how far we can go if united.

 

Dear Jensine,

My heart is full of gratitude for your visionary leadership, and for our having World Pulse. The voices of global sisters here woven so powerfully into your message are such a strengthening reminder of how connected we are at this point. Your message of the global rising of women and the critical importance of our continuing to come together in ever larger numbers will I hope inspire many more who have the chance to read this to understand what we now have, and to join us. We have never been in a better position to come forward in leadership toward a very different world, thanks to our being able to be in contact with each other. Even as the signs of the stranglehold of patriarchy become more obvious, I have never been more hopeful, thanks to World Pulse.

Thank you Tam,

I do not have words to express my gratitude for your visionary leadership across World Pulse - you are the *pulse* of World Pulse, truly.   We must come together now.  We are the way forward.

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Thank you for expressing what so many of us here in America are feeling. Tears running down my face as I read comments of encouragement from women all over. I feel less hopeless and ready to stand up to the corruption. I will march in January in DC thank you so much 

Cap, it is our active hope that will make everything possible. Thank you for standing up and following your convictions.  We are with you!  

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Jensine,

I've read and reread this piece.  It is beautifully and powerfully written and is an inspiring call to action with our sisters around the world.  Thank you!

Love,

 

Anne

Hello Jensine, I have admired your WorldPulse efforts for a long time. Now I am happy to finally be able to participate in a communicative way, since I have now become a Listener. Yes, "male dominance and militarization" is the devil we face. This may become even worse here in US in the next 4 years. Very sad indeed, when the US could be a leader in equality and justice. Thanks for building this site and continuing to grow it's usefulness. I will make my small effort at supporting the wide range of women who are brave enough to write their stories here.

Dear Jensine, I am so glad to connect with you through your post as you have made it possible for us to connect as women of the world! As you have stated, the power of an online platform is for sure a meeting point for women. The sense of connection, wealth of knowledge, free voice , open minded and handed women ready to encourage one another through real life experiences, serves to remind us more or our sameness but also celebrated differences from which we derive solidarity and purpose to take on leadership at all levels. We pray for a more tolerant America that we have known and admired for years.

LVB

LVB

Beautifully, powerfully written, with words that make me wonder about the women who've born the men who take the power and run into corruption and destruction of women's safety, environmental sanity, and peace. Mothers of men, where is your voice? How are today's sons being raised, and where are the voices of men who are aware of the world's dangers? Are we not to be in partnership with the males of our wombs? Of our families? Do we collectively have education for the males on why we are motivated women?

You may be curious (and I hope not regret)  this one man to join here, but I do understand the greed that causes loss on our society, and woman suffer the most. What I wrote "Justice System" came from my attempt to help a woman raised as a slave, and I was put in jail from my attempt to remain a friend after she was forced away from me with a man of power and money. Along with other women I know who suffered abuse in the past, that subject has become my priority on calls I get almost every day for help (usually on minor needs).

Yipeeeeeeee! And they will call us feminists, when it is them that create the scenarios that trigger the feminism in us!

Injustice to a woman anywhere, is injustice to women everywhere!

We must thrive. The universe is strongly behind us and in the end, we shall triumph!

Blessings.

Keep talking! Your voice is your power!

Dear Jensine,

Thanks a lot. We every day learn from each other what it is like in our own nations. one great thing that holds us together is the love, hope, encouragement we share for each other and the strength that keeps us moving together as one strong movement of women Change Makers on World Pulse. 

We rise up for each other. Thanks again, for this very powerful edition and for your great support for all of women around the world.

With lots of love and in solidarity,

Rosemary

Hello Jensine, I may be reading this month's after but the message is always relevant. What you described from the messages of various women across the world tells us that we are truly integrated as citizens of the world and strength can only come Frome unity... 

Best the best possible version of yourself you can be...

Hi Jensine,

I met you when you were a Speaker at a Bioneers Conference long ago, and I was attracted to your heart-felt vision for World Pulse and to you as a fellow Wisconsinite!!

I'm writing to you now with an idea that has been appearing in both my conscious and subconscious mind.  I believe that Viceland/Vice TV ("Vice") and World Pulse ("WP") could be great partners in the creation and distribution of important/meaning-full content for/on Vice.  Vice needs content and WP has it!  Spike Jonz is the guy behind Vice.  I have at least 3 degrees of separation/recognition from Mr. Jonz, but I believe that he might take a call from you.

Please let me know if this could work for you and if I might be helpful in any other way!

Energetically...Mike Kennedy (301-518-4773)

 

 

 

 

Thank you Kevin, you are an extraordinary human and your leadership on behalf of women is so important right now too.  Thank you for all you do.  Sending you great appreciation - go team!

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

It's great to see women connecting in such a way but I have questions. How can I find the mentoring I need as a marginalized woman in the U.S.? How can I create a conversation around the ways that we're separated as women by issues of race and class so that we can work together in a more inclusive way? Coming together around our commonalities as you suggest is difficult when we can't have honest dialogue about race, class, poverty, historical wrongs and the resentment created by them, even amongst ourselves. I'm grateful for the platform but am overwhelmed by the challenge of confronting these things in an effort to create a more evolved feminism.

 

Sincerely,

Amandalyn

Dear Jensine,

I am very proud to be a part of the big dream you created. Webbing women across the globe is the most needed niche to empower women to rise up against injustices. The strength of a web is unimaginable and the interconnected nature depicts the drive of women across the globe having a common ground, solidarity and pulse for their emancipation. Its really a wonderful concept. Congratulations!

Seraphine

Seraphine, it is an honor to receive such encouraging and poetic words from you - and to have you as part of our special community.  Together we are unstoppable, creating the pulse of change!! Thank you for your voice and leadership.

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Thank you Amal, and I am cheering you on as well!  Very grateful to have you, your voice and energy as part of our community!

Jensine Larsen World Pulse

Great work. I work for children especially the vulnerable in the former Liberian Refugee Settlement in Ghana, West Africa. 

I am very much aware that, my passion for children's survival and growth can be realized when women play a key role in the process. I am also aware that, they can only do so, when they themselves are empowered. so, I encouraged Jensine and  all women advocate to remain focused in the midst of all challenges for the cause. Please visit our website www.chrad.org  for more information on us. You may send us message via info@chrad.org     director@chrad.org or call Cellphone /whatsapp 00266 262 143 568. Lawrence Saah Varnie

Dear Jensine,

It was a pleasure meeting you today at Bank of America. Thank you for sharing your story and awesome outreach program with us!

best regards,

Mina Kermani

Just heard you in conversation with Clare, Im SO excited and grateful for what you do, for your inspiration. THANK YOU . I thought for a moment about your last advice to us, and Clare's endorsement to find your passion . I realised its children, to ensure children get the opportunity to REALLY connect with nature, every day , in a meaningful intimate way. No idea how to do this yet. AND, I had an idea for school-leavers to spend 1 year learning survival skills and above all, how to co-operate and work in a group. Much love Danuta

Danuta - a joy to meet you here!   Your dream is so important!  There are some incredible groups you could connect with on this - one that comes to mind is Coyote Trails a nature school, they have 1 year survival program for young women and .... doing a documentary about it!  the trailer is amazing.   Check it out and let me know if you'd like a connection:  http://www.coyotetrails.org/newsletter-archive/11-oregon-ctsn-news/596-5...

Jensine Larsen World Pulse