Following the release of No Ceiling’s report on the global gender gap, World Pulse called out to its online network of tens of thousands of grassroots women leaders from 190 countries to give voice to the data.No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, released a groundbreaking report outlining the progress made in the last 20 years on the path to true equality for women worldwide.
The statistics tell a very specific story: In the past two decades, we’ve seen major progress, but we have a long, steep climb ahead of us to reach women’s full participation across the globe.
Today, women comprise nearly a half-billion of the world’s illiterate adults, and one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence, usually at the hands of a partner. Just five years ago, more than 67 million women aged 20 to 24 had been married before the age of 18.
These are just some of the statistics presented in No Ceilings’ report that illuminate what women across the world already know: When it comes to women’s full participation in the areas that affect their lives, we’re just #NotThere yet.
And yet, when asked to respond to the data, women from Algeria to Papua New Guinea shouted back that the #PathThere is known. And, they say, they will light the way.
The Stories Behind the Statistics
**Note: As you read these stories, you can click on the names of those featured to connect directly on WorldPulse.com with empowered women altering the course of history.
“A circus elephant.” “A curse.” “A debt.” “An angel in prison.” These are the harrowing words women used to describe how oppression feels on a daily basis when systematically denied health care, education, and physical safety. But listening further, it quickly becomes clear that women on the ground know how to solve the problems they face and have practical steps to get there.
Pouring over the stories, there is a sense of urgency and a recognition that women today are simply refusing to compromise for anything less than full participation and equality.
In the area of leadership, there are women like Louisa Ono Eikhomun in Nigeria, who wrote in to say she ran for local office despite increasing threats warning her to back out of the race. She received only a single vote in the primary, yet she remains hopeful that she set the stage for other women in her community to follow suit.
This is significant because, as No Ceilings reports, women fill only 22% of national legislature seats, and surveys suggest that many believe women are not as qualified as men to be political leaders. Yet women like Louisa are blazing the trail forward, proving that small wins can mean big changes on the horizon.
“Today, I celebrate my singular vote for all it represents,” Louisa writes. “…I finally broke the yoke of non-female participation in elective positions. I demystified political participation in elective politics for women. And today, I am able to motivate women and girls through my experience.”
When it comes to gender-based violence, No Ceilings tells us “the estimated share of girls among the total number of detected trafficking victims has doubled, from 10% in 2004 to 21% in 2011.”
When Edith's friend Carolwas a young teen, she was studying at St. Mary’s Secondary School, Aboke located in Northern Uganda. She was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to marry a soldier. She gave birth to a baby before government forces were able to locate the girls and release them. Carol returned to her village where she decided to seek the education she was denied.
“I almost gave up the desire to pursue my studies,” she writes. “However, I got encouraged by some people who agreed to sponsor me. I joined Secondary school. With seven years lost, I knew I had to put in extra effort to be able to cope and compete with fellow students. Today I have finished University at 32. It has been possible, and my son goes to school too!”
Carol's story highlights the harrowing stories women across the globe call their own—and also makes the case that education is key to helping women progress toward full participation.
Education is an area where women are falling behind, but the women of World Pulse are eagerly trying to change that.
No Ceilings tells us that “around the world, there are still fewer girls and women in STEM education—fields with many of the best-paying jobs—and the situation has not improved. In 2010, women earned approximately 18% of all computer science bachelor degrees in the US, down from a high of 37% in 1984.”
Adanna in Nigeria envisions gender parity in STEM fields, but when she walks into a classroom she sees girls without access to Internet and technology in their schools or homes. She is promoting IT access and says that training for girls is a step towards her vision.
“How can more young girls and women in Africa be recruited into the sciences, engineering, mathematics, and technology (STEM),” she asks, “when the majority have no access to computers/internet, and many still don’t know how to use it?”
Adanna is not without solutions, however. She is the founder of InspireIT, a free mentoring program for young girls and women interested in STEM.
She recommends that the world prioritizes providing computers for secondary schools, as well as programs to promote careers in STEM for young girls in Africa. She also says we need more teachers trained in computer sciences, and workshops for young girls to impart knowledge and update their skills.
Not surprisingly, many women wrote in to tell us about the egregious state of maternal health in their countries. This is not surprising: Today, more than 800 women die each day from largely preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
“For many years, women have died after giving birth while their babies live,” writes Amina Lydia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “This type of tragedy is due to a lack of medical care, a lack of tools in delivery rooms, exhaustion following child-birth, the remoteness of health centers, a lack of specialists in the delivery room, a lack of transportation, a lack of information, and many other aspects tied to this issue.“
Similarly, Boutheina in Algeria wrote of her cousin’s harrowing experience in hospital during the birth of her son. As her delivery progressed, the doctors and midwives fled the room to attend to a dying pregnant woman—leaving Boutheina’s cousin alone during a difficult labor. As a result of this medical negligence, Boutheina’s cousin’s child was deprived of oxygen and suffered severe consequences.
Voice after voice called for a total end to gender-based violence, for healthy journeys through adolescence and motherhood, and for learning opportunities to even the playing field so that women can determine their own destinies.
As you read these stories, and the many others like them crowdsourced on WorldPulse.com, it becomes clear that each voice is an indomitable force already making change. Taken together, the voices are a powerful reminder that women are at the forefront of transforming communities. These are the changemakers who will alter the statistics so that the next report chants #We’reHere.