In examining the state of girls and women around the world, through our No Ceilings report, plan and website, we know that data can tell us where progress has been made and where gaps remain. But to know where we need to go, we must also look beyond the numbers. It’s the voices and stories of those represented by the data – the girls and women living with these challenges and opportunities every day – that can give us some of the best insight into what it will take to reach full participation in the 21st century.
Since last year we’ve focused on doing just that – hosting a series of conversations around the world and across media platforms to hear the voices of girls and women themselves. This summer, along with Chelsea Clinton and a delegation of foundation supporters and staff, No Ceilings traveled to Haiti where we led a discussion about the barriers and opportunities to women’s economic participation.
We also partnered with World Pulse, a digital community that connects and engages the voices of girls and women from around the globe to better understand how this data was meaningful to them and seek their good counsel in charting the path to full participation. We received more than 100 incredible stories from women across 30 countries. Their experiences, opinions, and voices told of distinct barriers and opportunities. Yet their words wove together one very important and inspiring fact: progress is possible.
We are excited to share just a few of their incredible stories:
Angela Kintu Rwabose, Uganda: “Any Woman Could Still Die in Childbirth:” — “If we are going to prioritize the wellbeing of mother and babies, we must prioritize quality education for the healthcare professionals who handle them,” writes Angela Kintu Rwabose of Uganda, who tells of the lack of resources and support, not just for pregnant women in her country but for the professionals who care for them. While she was fortunate to have the proper resources and healthcare to resolve her complicated pregnancy and birth, Angela speaks to the plight of women just like her who die each day in childbirth and of the lack of resources available to the medical professionals who want to help them. Yet, Angela sees hope in this challenge and offers her own solutions such as better training for midwives, more vocational opportunities for girls, and more health education for girls and women of reproductive age. Read the full story here.
Dr. Lulabi Pattanayak, India: “The ‘Yes’ That Changed Our Lives” — Dr. Lulabi Pattanayak began an informal school for homeless, illiterate girls in her community after learning the local nonprofit where the girls sought shelter did not provide schooling, books, or practical training. With the few resources she could find, Dr. Pattanayak began to teach the girls English as well as Bengali, which helped them eventually to pursue further education and careers. The lessons stretched beyond practical knowledge: “After a few months, the girls showed such amazing progress that they organized a cultural gathering,” wrote Dr. Pattanayak. “That evening they showed everyone they were not worthless girls, but human beings with potential who deserve respect.” Read the full story here.
Louisa Ono Eikhomun, Nigeria: “How I Lost an Election and Still Won” — Disappointed that no woman had ever run for political office in her community of Ugboha, Nigeria, Louisa Ono Eikhomun decided to run for a seat in the Edo State House of Assembly. While women are legally allowed to vote and seek political office, Louisa found that inequality remained deeply embedded in her community, preventing her and other women from achieving that goal. “After each speech, men would rise to shake my hand and express that they wished I were a man, as I would have been their choice,” she wrote. Despite the odds against her, Louisa continued her contest for office, winning just one of 300 votes cast. Although she didn’t win, she celebrates that one vote as a symbol of progress for the women in her community. Read the full story here.
Just as the No Ceilings data has inspired these women to tell their stories, their stories have inspired us to keep driving towards progress for girls and women everywhere. We hope that their words and our data will be an inspiration to you as well. To learn more check out NoCeilings.org and read more of the stories from the World Pulse community here.