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Failed States: Give Women A Chance!

Early this week, I started reading the Failed State Index 2012 – an annual, globally recognized and accepted report prepared by the Washington DC- based organization Fund For Peace that ranks countries of the world according to their stability and capacity.

Topping the list of the failed states, for the fifth straight time, is Somalia. According to J J Messner, editor of the report, if this was a championship, Somalia would be called a legend. But since it’s not, the rank only indicates how bad the state of affairs is in the country where chaos and conflicts rule. Things are almost equally bad in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has gotten the dubious 2nd place. Also sharing the space in the top 10 bracket is Zimbabwe.

Now, I have read this report a couple of times in earlier and just took them as what they were: a compilation of facts. But this year as I was reading it, a series of faces flashed before my eyes; women who are young, energetic, forever challenging, forever questioning everything that is wrong and, what’s more, also working to set them right.

These women come from these failed states, but are anything but a representative of failure. And here’s the reason why I thought of them: they are women of our very own World Pulse change-makers’ fraternity.

The first person that I thought of was Sah Koshin – my fellow Voice of our future (VoF) Correspondent ’11-12 who is working to promote girls education in Somalia. A young mother with a baby girl, Sah has passionately spoken a number of times about girls’ education in her conversations both and out of world pulse.

Earlier, I remember reading an interview of the noted Somalian woman human rights activist called Zam Zam Adbullahi who told Amnesty International that the key to change Somalia was to make education accessible to all Somalian girls. Abdullahi said that girls in Somalia were often told that girls were deprived of education in the name of religion and it had to be challenged. Today Sah is doing exactly that.

Moving on to DRC, I thought of Neema Namadamu – another VOF correspondent who is fighting so many enemies simultaneously: disability, gender violence, inequality and more. She has been exposing the horror of war-time rape in DRC which is torn with civil war and trying to end this worst form of gender-violence. Once you have known Neema, it is hard to believe that she comes from a country which is the Failed State No 2 in the world!

Also hard to believe is the state of Zimbabwe, which ranks fifth in the top 10 failed states’ list, is where my fellow VoF correspondents Rumbidzai Dube lives. A loud and fierce human rights defender, Rumbi –as I have come to call her now- is a young lawyer who will not back down or shut up unless you have literally gagged her.

There are many such names that I am thinking of – all of them World Pulse members - including those from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cote D’Ivoire, Iraq and Nigeria – the ‘top grader’ countries in the failed state index. And all of them are women driven by a goal: to bring a positive change. From campaigning for girls education, health and human rights for all to opposing violence and corruption, they are investing their energy to take their societies towards a better future.

If only the states started listening to these voices of sanity and positivity! If only there was more space and more takers of their thoughts!

But I am not here to lament what’s missing. I am here to say this: it’s time for the countries to make room for their emerging women leaders because, they cannot only change the political and cultural landscape, but also help them lose that shameful ‘Failed state’ crown they don’t want.

For the non-believers, there is the example of Finland – the country which has beaten everyone else – including the US and the UK – to be the most sustainable state in the world. And one of the biggest reasons has been the Finnish society’s amazing record in respecting and practicing women’s rights. In fact, Hillary Clinton - the US secretary of State was couldn’t stop praising the equal status of women in Finland during her recent visit to the country. And why shouldn’t she? After all, Finland is now the best place on earth for a woman to live!

So, there is hope yet for the failed states: give your women a chance.

Meanwhile, Jensine Larsen and the World Pulse community can take heart in the fact that if someone is looking for even a single voice of substance, success and change from the world’s most failed states, he/she need not look further; it is echoing right here!



Kim Crane's picture

Love this

Hi Stella,

I agree, you do look at those depressing reports in a new light when you are lucky to know some of the incredible women in this community. Reports like that don't tell the whole story! And isn't it amazing how when countries make room for the Sahs, Neemas, Rumbis, and STELLAS of the world, everything ends up better? I have a friend visiting the US from Finland right now who is shocked by the homelessness here, the fact that university isn't free, and his unfortunate run in with our healthcare system (also not free). Maybe Finland's secret (or one of them) is gender equality!

Dear Kim

There was a lot of noise about how Secretary Clinton went all gaga over a lot of Finnish women participating in international events and more. Of course we heard what our media colleagues found interesting to their ears and reported those tidbits. I would actually love to know what more Clinton found out. Also, they say, the best way to admire something is by copying it. So, perhaps that's something Ms Clinton can do - replicate the good stuff Finland has done in the US. Its not very comforting that the world's biggest economy is trailing so far behind Finland!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Greengirl's picture

Wow Stella!

Thank you once again for using your golden voice to advance the cause and course of women.

I cannot agree with you any less that women should be given a chance to prove their worth and substance in leadership, as a matter of fact, in every facet of life. I hope the world sincerely takes a cue from Finland.

Women are certainly weathering the storms by the day, and hopefully, their efforts will be given a place of pride in every society!

Nice reading your piece once again!



Stella Paul's picture

There is a challenge

Dear Olanike
Yes, certainly.But there is a big challenge: the world community needs to take more notice of the women who work even in the face of extreme adversity. For that to happen, it is also needed that women themselves network and helps grow their own tribe. Number does count!

Thanks my friend, for reading and commenting! Keep up the good work you are doing!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Failed State spot on

Dearest Stella,

Acknowledge my long silence and the admiration that you made it to speak for self.

I see and hear a sense of a call to action ,women world are doing each simple to complex thing for the world to be a better place.

Thank you so much for thinking so fondly of the VOF class of 2011-2012,I have learnt that the moment a society despises the ability of the girl child then the boy child suffers from aggression and the world becomes a place full of violence and more women suffer as a consequence.

This is an eye opener.

Your Pulse classmate

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Stella Paul's picture

Links in a chain

Dear Lucia

Of course I am fond of the entire class, also the previous classes! All of us are good, full of positive ideas and energy!

I agree with you on the fact that the moment gender discrimination starts, society starts moving towards instability.As the discrimination grows, so does instability and chaos. Its like links in a chain. So, when gender inequality decreases, stability also increases. This, in return, enhances a country's overall capacity - which is the yardstick the Failed States Index uses.

So, keep working for equality.Good things will follow.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Awesome and Inspiring!


Thank you for your hard work and diligent research into so many different issues and works of women! This is a great article, with juxtaposition of 'failed' and 'ferocious'. [my word]... Ferociously amazing women following their heart while using their entire soul in the face of unbelievable obstacles. You are so right- a nation can not/should not be named as 'failed', because there are successful women foraging the way!

I, too, have read and seen reports of Finland and can take a cue from them. I have in-laws from Finland, and wow, what voices and examples they are in my personal life.

Thank you for putting a megaphone to the voices of Sah, Neema, Rumbidzai, and other women who's voices ARE heard here, loud and clear.

You, my dear, never cease to amaze me.

Lovingly and with HOPE!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Stella Paul's picture

You can share more stories

Dear Michelle

Though Finland is the best country for a woman to live in, unfortunately, we don't have a lot of insight into the lives of ordinary women - or men - there. Blame it on the bar of language or global communication. Since you have relations there, I think you are in a privileged position to get and share more stories of the country and women's status there. It would be great to hear you tell them!


Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Cali gal Michelle's picture


Will do and report back. After seeing brief moments over the past few years of how the family unit operates, it is interesting how much influence and leadership the Mom has in the family. It would be interesting to interview her regarding her country's history, etc. I, for one, could learn a thing or two!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Leslie Stoupas's picture

Great report, Stella!

Thanks for sharing this report, Stella! There is definitely a link between women's social mobility and economic viability and the success of her country on a grander scale. I am so honored to have worked with so many women here at World Pulse who are making such a difference in the visibility of what women contribute everywhere!

Leslie Stoupas

Stella Paul's picture

Yes of course

Thanks Leslie! In an addition to what you are saying, a lot of women leaders never get recognized and known.Why? Because, they never get talked about. That's just a reflection of how women always have to stand at the end of the line to get their share of opportunities. The day the line moves quickly, the state will also move forward.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

jap21's picture

Hi Stella

Awesome way of putting the truth in front of our eyes! I just hope that some men could read this, so I ask for permission to repost it in my facebook and twitter.

Good job my dear!

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

Stella Paul's picture

Go ahead and share!

Dear Jacqueline

Sure, do feel free to share the story! Nurturing a new line of leadership is crucial for any developing country to move toward a better future. And in that line of leadership, there ought to be at least equal number of women.
Love and best

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Evie's picture

Greetings from Finland


I think the roots of the success in Finland can be found in the history.

The Finnish women got full political rights very early, in 1906 Finnish women became the first in the world to have unrestricted rights both to vote AND to stand for parliament. The women in Finland have had real political power and they have used it. Women in Finland and in the other Nordic countries have had an important role creating the so called Nordic Model, which has many aspects that support the gender equality, like the universal daycare.

Typically Finnish girls are raised to be independent, education is highly respected. Today women in Finland are better educated than men. Of course there's no perfect place on this planet but I think Finland is a good place to live, despite the long dark winters...

Helsinki, Finland

Stella Paul's picture

Thank you Elvie

Thanks Elvie for sharing the insights on the status of women. I wish there were more interactions and a greater flow of news and information between the women of Finland and the rest of the world. Nothing inspires like examples when one is fighting for change.

Hope you will tell us more.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

usha kc's picture

dear sis, Thank you so much

dear sis,
Thank you so much for let us know about the report and yes, hats off to you for rightly pointed out the successful and powetful women giving voice from those failure(?) states.

love dear.

Stella Paul's picture

You are one too

Dear Sister USha

As a woman living in a broken country like Nepal, you are also working for constructive change and I salute you too! Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dearest Stella, Thank you so

Dearest Stella,

Thank you so much for posting us such a vivid and informative post! Couldnt agree more!!!!

How I wish if these states have valued the great ideas of these great sisters and how this world and especially these so-called failed states would have changed.


Stella Paul's picture

They will

Dear Marian

Change can not be stopped. It can only be delayed. So, failed states too will change for better and women will find their rightful place in the political and social affairs. We only need to keep working towards that.


Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

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