Finding a Pulse Worth Reading
New magazine gives a voice to women and children of the world
By JOSEPH GALLIVAN
Issue date: Tue, Jun 1, 2004
Taking on the global political structure from her kitchen table in Northeast Portland makes sense to Jensine Larsen.
Larsen, whose first name is pronounced "Yen-seen-ah," is editor of World Pulse magazine, which launches today. One of the two tag lines, "Women and children transforming our world," sums up her sense that a sea change is under way, if not a revolution.
"The thrust of the magazine is about listening to women and youth on an equal basis," she says. She also cites UNICEF's recent recommendation that "the top priority in raising living standards worldwide would be to educate women, especially young girls."
The premise is that women are spontaneously organizing to salvage something from the mess men have made of the world, although the magazine eschews anti-male rhetoric.
This is the kind of magazine that will sit pretty in the racks at Nature's and Food Front. There are few fun facts, but front-of-book pieces such as the Mother's Index (best and worst places to be a mother: Sweden good, Niger very bad) and a list of which countries are headed by women (13 of 180) are easily digested.
One article looks at the plight of children in Haiti (remember Haiti?). Another is the diary of 18-year-old child rights activist Cheryl Perera of Sri Lanka. The personal is political, as shown in an interesting examination of the relationship between terrorism and "intimate violence." And there are harrowing survivor tales from Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
These are all stories that could be found in Time or Newsweek, albeit only occasionally. But taken together as 70 full-color pages they have added resonance - that feeling that something must be going on.
"We want to address the underrepresentation of women and children in the international news media," Larsen says. The emphasis, she adds, will be on "global problem-solving."
In the late 1990s Larsen worked as a freelance journalist in the Ecuadorian Amazon and along the Burma-Thailand border, where she witnessed the power of female networks and leadership in overcoming the horrors of genocide. Back in Portland and working as a massage therapist, she decided to do something about it.
"It's about developing respect for women's voices," she says of the magazine, which also can be glimpsed at www.worldpulsemagazine.com.
She calls her publication a "pulse" and says it is "moving beyond patterns of blame and victimization to harness the vast power of human potential." What impresses her about the emergence of female leaders is "the way they are networking to tell their stories to the world. Two-thirds of the poor people in the world are women. How might our world transform if women were heard?"
A native of Wisconsin, Larsen came to Portland 10 years ago and majored in international studies at Lewis & Clark College and Portland State University.
At a recent panel at the Women at Work and Play conference at the Oregon Convention Center, Larsen assembled the type of people whose voices are heard in the magazine. Among them was Associated Press reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who told of journeying to the camp of a guerilla army in the mountains of Nagaland, a Baptist state in Hindu Northeast India. She got the best access because she was female; she was even lulled to sleep by singing female soldiers.
At a benefit party for World Pulse in April, the tone was set by an all-ages, all-female samba band, the Lionesses of Batucada.
The mood was international and optimistic. Larsen made her pitch, actor Wade McCollum presented his piece "Seahorse: Men Can Give Birth to a New World Too," and female DJs Anjali and Harmony played Bhangra and World Beat.
Larsen also announced the name had been changed from World Birth to World Pulse. "We were getting too many calls about doulas and birthing pools," she says.
The staff is working pro bono for now. Ramya Ramanathan, 29, the magazine's global editor, was born in Bangalore, India, but now works for the Food Bank for New York. She says she first heard about the project from a post by Larsen on the Web site Idealist.org ("Where the Nonprofit World Meets").
"Although there is need for hunger relief in the U.S.A., at least there are resources available," Ramanathan says. "In the developing world it’s at a different level." But, she adds, "The developing world has plenty of tales of survivors and courage that can inspire everybody here."
Just as women in rural areas can rent cell phones for a few minutes to make calls, so can technology can help even the smallest of global operations. World Pulse's Iraq round table article was conducted by e-mail, the three authors being constant travelers. "I come home from work and then work on the magazine from 7 until 2 in the morning, talking to people in different time zones," Ramanathan says. "But it’s really inspiring."
Today, new magazines are not expected to make a profit for at least five years. Some start small and grow, as zines. Others are financed by media empires. Larsen is hoping to take the middle path. World Pulse already has more than 700 subscribers paying $23 for six issues a year. The gamble is to go all-out with the color and quality reporting, in the hope of attracting investors and advertisers for issue No. 2. It cost around $20,000 to get the first issue printed and distributed.
"I guarantee there will be a second issue by the end of 2004," Larsen says.