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The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 30

First Lady Melania Trump yesterday gave 13 women the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage award. The honor, inaugurated in 2007, recognizes women who have “demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.” Each U.S. embassy can nominate one woman for the award. Over the past decade, more than 100 women from more than 60 countries have won the prize.

This year’s recipients, as my colleague Linda Kinstler reports, have made herculean commitments to protecting women and children around the world, but one in particular stood out to me.

Syria’s Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh, of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, was honored for her dedication to the women and children of Damascus. She has remained in the city throughout the Syrian conflict to run a nursery school and a tailoring workshop for Syrian women. According to the State Department, the school provides a safe environment for more than 200 Muslim and Christian children, many of whom have suffered unspeakable trauma because of the war. The tailoring workshop, meanwhile, gives internally displaced women income, job prospects, and much-needed day-to-day support. In its inaugural year, it trained 14 women; now it’s helping over 100 Muslim and Christian women—many of whom have fled violence in other parts of Syria—develop skills.

In an interview last year during a ceasefire, Sister Carol described living in “constant fear of clashes resuming and missiles being launched.” In the nursery, she and other nuns and teachers try to combat the chaos by “creat[ing] a peaceful and joyous environment, paying a great deal of attention to the needs of each child,” many of whom show obvious signs of trauma. One little girl, she said, had seen her grandfather murdered by ISIS fighters. “At the moment we are still trying to work out the best way to help her,” she said.

In addition to running the nursery and tailoring program, Sister Carol and her colleagues distribute food and medicine packs to those in need and end up spending “a great deal of time listening to all those who seek words of comfort and encouragement.”

Fleeing the violence is not an option in her eyes. “We have not once thought of leaving Syria, not even when the fighting was intense,” she said. “We are here to stay and will continue taking care of people who have been sorely tested.”

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Brexit’s first blowGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel dealt a setback to Theresa May’s plans for Brexit yesterday. Merkel rejected the prime minister’s request for U.K.-EU trade talks to take place alongside negotiations over Britain’s exit from the bloc. May officially triggered Article 50 in a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk yesterday, launching a two-year period of negotiations. Merkel’s decision means Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU.The Independent

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On the hunt
Hunting is no longer just a man’s sport in Norway, where women made up 12% of hunters in 2013, reflecting a 60% increase in female participation over the course of a decade. The country’s main hunting association has begun holding women-only activities to capitalize on the budding interest, which seems to stem from growing societal attention to the countryside and to where the region’s meat comes from. The trend isn’t limited to Norway, either; in 2016, Latvia held its first “Lady Hunt.”
New York Times
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Amal on accountability
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is calling for the collection of evidence of Islamic State atrocities to ensure “the worst crimes of our generation” eventually face justice. She told a conference on accountability for crimes in Syria and Iraq that the massacres of the Yazidi people, murders, and gang rapes carried out by ISIS fighters should not go unpunished. Clooney is working as counsel to survivors of Iraq’s Yazidi community and is assembling records and testimony with the aim of bringing charges against captured and fugitive ISIS soldiers and commanders.
Guardian

 

THE AMERICAS

Making it official
Ivanka Trump will now take an official, unpaid role as assistant to her father in the White House. The first daughter had planned to serve as an informal advisor to the president—she already has an office in the West Wing and is obtaining security clearance—but the arrangement had raised questions about whether the casual nature of the role would let her skirt financial disclosure rules.
New York Times
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Skipping a generation?
In a new interview with Variety, Chelsea Clinton announced that she does not intend to run for public office. “I really am constantly surprised by the stories of me running for, fill in the blank—Congress, Senate, City Council, the presidency,” she said. “I really find this all rather hysterical, because I’ve been asked this question a lot throughout my life, and the answer has never changed.” Still, she signaled she may one day have a change of heart: “If someone steps down or something changes, I’ll then ask and answer those questions at that time. But right now, no, I’m not running for public office.”
Fortune
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Ms. Mayor
Political experts have dubbed 2017 the year of the black woman mayor, with a large cohort of candidates running for office in cities like Detroit, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Black women currently hold 25 mayorships in cities with populations over 30,000. “Black women are running and winning,” Jessica Byrd of Three Point Strategies, a consulting firm that trains progressive candidates of color, told Essence. “[In my experience] black women run for two reasons. One, they either want to fix something or they’re mad as hell.”
Essence

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

Leaving at a cost
India’s new law doubling maternity leave from 13 to 26 weeks will likely make it harder for women to find jobs. A survey of 4,300 small and medium companies found that 26% of respondents would prefer to hire male candidates in light of the new policy. An additional 40% said they would consider hiring female candidates only if “the cost is worth the candidate.”
Quartz
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Taking after Trump
Australian Senator Pauline Hanson’s political resurrection, two decades after she lost control of her seat and her party after making xenophobic remarks, owes much to President Donald Trump. Hanson has adopted many of Trump’s talking points, making racist comments about Muslims and vocally supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin. While Australia’s parliamentary system limits the amount of power her One Nation party can grab, experts say Hanson has done significant damage by normalizing xenophobic political language on migration issues.
Quartz
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News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Actress Emma Thompson attacks ‘evil’ Hollywood pressure on women to be thin
Guardian

Paris bans sexist outdoor ads
Jezebel

Silicon Valley renaissance woman Yoky Matsuoka returns to Nest
Fortune

‘Wall Street Journal’ staffers signed a letter criticizing the control white men have over the newsroom
Business Insider

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend reveals more details about the company’s culture
Fortune

 

PARTING WORDS

“[P]atriarchy is the most persistent, stubborn virus. We are still searching for political and spiritual antibodies to fight this massive infection.”
--Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, in conversation with Emma Watson.