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The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 12

Spain lost a political pioneer on April 9, when former defense minister Carme Chacón died at age 46 from an apparent congenital heart condition.

When Chacón became Spain’s first female defense minister in 2008, she was 37 years old and seven months pregnant.

Her appointment to the position following a stint as housing minister prompted intense criticism. Opponents saw it as an insult to the armed forces since she was trained as a lawyer and had no military experience, according to Quartz. But others considered her a capable, compassionate leader and a symbol of gender equality, thriving in the nation’s notoriously macho culture and dismantling stereotypes of pregnant women.

A 2008 image of Chacón—visibly pregnant in a white blouse, walking amid troops as they stand at attention—became an iconic portrait of the country at a time when Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had guaranteed balanced political representation and had vowed to push through sexual equality laws.

After Chacón’s Socialist party was voted out of power in the 2011 election, she lost a close race to be its leader. At the news of her death, tributes to the former army commander poured in, including from Spain’s current deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. She said Chacón, who is survived by her son Miguel, “opened the door for many.”

—@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

A strategic smileA photograph of Saffiyah Khan smiling at a far-right English Defence League protester during a demonstration in Birmingham has been quickly lauded as an iconic portrayal of the power of pluralism, feminism, and resistance. But what the photograph doesn’t reveal is that Khan stepped forward to defend 24-year-old Saira Zafar from the EDL’s verbal attacks. Zafar was participating in a counter-demonstration when the far-right protesters began shouting, “You’re not English” at her. Khan noticed the police weren’t stepping in, so she serenely shielded Zafar from their verbal attacks. “I wasn’t going to let someone who was speaking the truth and being replied to aggressively be put in that position,” she said.Guardian

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Vera v. Viktor
European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova called on Hungarian civil society to resist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s effort to shut down Budapest’s Central European University, which investor George Soros founded in 1991. A new measure signed into law this week aims to crack down on foreign universities. “I can tell you my fear in Hungary is that there are efforts to decrease the power and the influence of the civil society… and decrease the political pluralism,” she said on Monday. Over 70,000 people have taken to the streets to protest the university’s slated closure in some of the largest protests since Orban came to power.
EU Observer
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Provoking a president
Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi has been charged with cyber harassment and “shaming” the government as a result of her petition for free sanitary pads for schoolgirls, which President Yoweri Museveni promised to provide during his 2016 campaign. Museveni backtracked in January, claiming his government lacked the funds to distribute the items. Nyanzi immediately took to Facebook to complain, directing her critique at Musveni’s wife, Janet. Her Facebook posts got her removed from her academic job, and on Monday, she was charged with cyber harassment for comparing the president to “a pair of buttocks.”
NPR

THE AMERICAS

Ivanka’s influence
Eric Trump suggested that his sister Ivanka played a decisive role in President Donald Trump’s decision to launch missile strikes against Syria. “Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence,” Eric Trump said. “I’m sure she said: ‘Listen, this is horrible stuff.'” Eric took over his father’s real estate business and has no an official role in the administration. “The beautiful thing about family,” he explained, “is…once in a while you can pull them aside and say: ‘No disrespect but you might want to think about this or maybe you crossed the line here.'”
Fortune
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Google searches for answers
Google says it’s dumbfounded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s claims that it systematically underpays women “pretty much across its entire workforce.” In a blog post yesterday denying the allegation, Google VP of People Eileen Naughton wrote: “We were taken aback by this assertion, which came without any supporting data or methodology.” Last year, the company’s internal analysis found no evidence of a pay gap, and on April 4, Equal Pay Day, Google announced that it had “closed the gender pay gap globally.”
Fortune
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Binders of women IRL
Remember when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed to have “binders full of women” in 2012? He wasn’t speaking metaphorically. The Boston Globe unearthed two actual three-ring binders containing some 200 cover letters and resumes from women. “We used them throughout, especially for boards and commissions,” said Romney’s former campaign manager Beth Myers.
Fortune
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Testing Trudeau
It’s up to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help push more women into STEM following a major gender diversity report’s recommendation that he institute gender targets and quotas to diversify the nation’s research base. One political opponent wondered whether Trudeau, an avowed feminist, would have the “guts” to put the measures in place.
Motherboard

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

Domestic dangers
Filipina women are pouring out of their country in search of stable livelihoods as domestic workers abroad, often in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, or Hong Kong. But too often, the journey leads to women being exploited and harassed by employment agencies, training centers, and employers. Some end up returning to the Philippines in debt, struggling with lasting symptoms of physical and psychological abuse.
Broadly
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A first for finance
Sima Kamil, the new CEO of Pakistan’s United Bank Limited, is the first woman to head a major commercial bank in the conservative nation. Kamil comes to UBL, Pakistan’s third-largest bank, from Habib Bank, where she was head of the branch network. “History bears testimony to the fact that women in Pakistan have struggled for decades to obtain rights for themselves; they still continue to do so,” M. Fazal Elahi writes of the appointment. “[T]hings are transforming in Pakistan, though at a snail’s pace.”
Pakistan Observer
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News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Malala Yousafzai becomes the youngest ever UN messenger of peace
Elle

How Oprah got her acting groove back
BuzzFeed

‘Hidden Figures’ author to write two new books on overlooked black icons
Huffington Post

Meet the woman replacing disgraced Alabama governor Robert Bentley
Fortune

Leaked email: President Trump’s modeling agency is shutting down
Mother Jones

Net-a-Porter boss Alison Loehnis: London wants its fashion even faster than New York
Evening Standard

 

PARTING WORDS

“We will speak on your behalf. We will ensure your voice is heard. We will resist the idea that women are a threat, or that success as a female Marine can come only at the expense of family and self.”
--A message from nearly 100 female Marines and Marine veterans to their sisters-in-arms, in an open letter calling for an end to misogyny in the Marine Corps.