Move over Norway: Gender equality makes gains in unexpected places.

The gender gap has narrowed in 105 countries over the last decade, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. But three nations stand out in a mostly Nordic top 10.

Rwanda (7th)

Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/file
Two women rest along a stretch of road in the Rulindo district of Rwanda in this 2009 file photo.

Female political empowerment has enabled Rwanda to close the gender gap – and break the top 10 in its first year of inclusion in the WEF report.

The sub-Saharan African nation of 12 million people is the only country in the world with more women in its parliament than men. Women hold 64 percent of the seats, having kept a majority since 2008. Female lawmakers have further narrowed the gender gap by introducing various education and health reforms.

Rwandan women have yet to make similar strides in the economy, however. While slightly more women than men are in the country’s labor force, women's average income is 34 percent smaller. In addition, women in Africa, including Rwanda, are more likely to be informally employed, making it difficult to measure their economic participation.

“In Africa, more than two-thirds of the labor force and an even a higher percentage of women is informal,” said Martha Chen, a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government who studies gender and poverty. “Those parts of the labor force are the most vulnerable.”

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

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We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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