2013 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW major: Comparative International Studies
Age: 38 • Portland, Oregon
Founder and CEO, World Pulse
Jensine Larsen believes that the creative human potential of women and girls is the greatest untapped resource on earth. As a young freelance journalist working in Southeast Asia and South America, she realized that the immense challenges facing women in remote and impoverished regions were seldom covered in the mainstream media. So she started World Pulse to give these women a voice. What began as a print magazine was transformed in 2007 into the interactive World Pulse website (worldpulse.com), where any woman with access to a cyber cafe or a cell phone can share her story and find support from other women.
Since then, some of the women's stories have been picked up by outlets ranging from CNN to the BBC and the Huffington Post. In his book Half the Sky, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff recommends joining World Pulse as one of the top four things people can do in 10 minutes to support women globally.
World Pulse also offers women training as citizen journalists, and provides them with a means to lobby governments and other organizations as they try to create a more just society. So far, some 50,000 women from 190 countries have taken advantage of this global forum to call attention to human-rights violations in their countries and to help create solutions.
In recognition of her unique vision, Larsen has received a "Lives of Commitment" award celebrating women spiritual leaders from Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. She was named a "Woman Who Inspires" by Donna Karan New York, and Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney selected her as one of its "Next Generation Changemakers."
Larsen is in demand as a keynote speaker and has appeared on NPR and PBS, and she has presented at numerous conferences, including TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), Women in Technology International and the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship.
Larsen firmly believes that when women are heard, they change the world. When the United Nations set up its UN Women agency in 2011, World Pulse encouraged its members to write and make recommendations to set priorities for change, and women from 90 countries responded. Fardosa Muse wrote about the dire conditions for women and girls in the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenya/Somalia border, resulting in a visit from UN Women director Michelle Bachelet, who encouraged her to keep advocating for her countrywomen. As Muse says, "It's my responsibility as a Somali woman to speak on behalf of these voiceless people."
And, thanks to Larsen, it is World Pulse's mandate to multiply that voice the world over.
In her own words
What do you miss most about campus?
Having a coffee break at the Sunroom between classes with my father, who has worked at the Memorial Library all my life. We ate pumpkin chocolate chip muffins — which he loved — and talked about politics.
What is the one thing every UW student must do?
On a sunny weekend, take the Capital City bike trail out of town into the rolling farmland and have an impromptu picnic!
What is the greatest benefit of a UW degree?
I think a UW degree bears the stamp of a highly rigorous, progressive education.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Fundraising is like falling in love; you have to meet and develop relationships with the people who share your vision and passion and want to be on the journey alongside you.
What's your favorite quote?
"Women working together — linked, informed and educated — can bring peace and prosperity to this planet." — Isabel Allende
What do the next five years look like?
Our goal is to be the largest interactive-media and communication network powered by millions of women leading change in every region of the world.
The leadership of women and the power of social media are both unstoppable forces — and will only grow more powerful over the next five years. Ultimately, we are building a world where no woman or girl will feel alone or unheard, and [will] believe in the power of her own voice.
What was your first job?
Selling vinyl records on State Street before college.
What five items would you take to a desert island?
My Android phone with solar charger, my music, a thick pad of unlined blank paper and a black, fine-point Sharpie pen!
If you could trade places with any person for a week, with whom would it be?
Alicia Keys. If I could be reborn, I would dream to have a singing voice like hers, as well as her fiery, soulful presence and power.