The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 28

April 28, 2017, 7:15 AM UTC

One source of hope in the devastation of the Syrian civil war comes from the group of volunteer aid workers known as the White Helmets, who gained acclaim through the Oscar-winning documentary about their efforts that was released on Netflix last year. Of the 3,000 or so White Helmet members who risk their lives to help others, about 100 are women.

One female member, Manal Abazeed, traveled to the U.S. this week to receive the McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award from Refugees International on behalf of the White Helmets—officially called the Civil Defense—and she talked to NPR about her experience as one of the few female volunteers aiding victims of the six-year conflict.

When Abazeed, who used to work in accounting, first joined the group in 2015, she sensed some pushback from her male peers.

“Initially, people were not as accepting of women…so most of my work was just in the actual center or behind the scenes in the ambulances,” she says.

But eventually, the men realized the upside of having women in their ranks. Women are, for instance, more readily able to aid female victims who might be indisposed.

During one bombing, Abazeed helped a woman who’d been in the bathroom at the time of the strike.

“When the lady regained consciousness, the first thing she asked was, are there still positions available? Can my daughter join the Civil Defense?” Abazeed recalls.

She says that in her city of Daraa “there really isn’t life.”

“There’s death and there’s bombing,” she says.

Yet she told NPR she doesn’t feel a sense of danger doing the job.

“Whether you were at home, at work, at the office or at the park, everywhere was dangerous,” she says. “If everyone hesitated and gave in to the fear, then who would be there to help?”



Lessons from the jungleIngrid Betancourt is the French-Colombian former politician who was held hostage by Farc, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in the jungle for six and a half years, before being released in 2008. Now, based in Oxford, England, she's leaning on that experience in speeches to employers about the importance of addressing workers' mental health. "Suffering is suffering," she says.Financial Times


Wales wants for women
Welsh election officials warned of a “diversity crisis” among politicians standing in upcoming local elections; only 30% of candidates are women. Jess Blaire, director of the Welsh Electoral Reform Society, warned that the low number means that “Wales risks falling behind on diversity...What this means in practice is that councils will not mirror the people they are meant to represent.” A third of council wards in Wales have no women on the ballot.

"There is no less love"
Brigitte Macron met her husband, French presidential favorite Emmanuel Macron, when he was a 15-year-old student in her drama class. The couple has been married for a decade, and Emmanuel Macron credits Brigitte, 24 years his senior, for being his guide and coach throughout his political career. The Macrons don't shy away from discussing their unorthodox union, which has been fertile ground for rumors. "We don’t have a classic family, that’s an undeniable reality,” the presidential candidate said recently, adding, "There is no less love in our family."
The Independent


Cold calling
At a dinner honoring the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership, Goldman Sachs exec-turned-presidential advisor Dina Powell told the audience how she became a close confidant of Ivanka Trump. It started with a cold call Trump placed to Powell after the 2016 election to learn more about a Goldman initiative focused on helping female entrepreneurs. "She was really thinking about how she could lend her voice," Powell said. 

Voted most popular
María Eugenia Vidal, governor of the province of Buenos Aires, has become the country’s most popular politician and has emerged as a key ally in Argentinian President Mauricio Macri’s fight to end the dominance of Peronism in the nation’s politics. In her year-and-a-half in office, Vidal has purged corrupt security agencies and brought unions to the bargaining table. “All these macho men who governed the province for so many years never stood up for the fight,” Vidal said in a recent interview.
Wall Street Journal

Leading the march
Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, has become a national figure since organizing the massive demonstration in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Her civil rights advocacy stretches back almost two decades, yet her newly prominent role has made her a magnet for criticism and outrage. “Is feminism about you, or is feminism a larger quest for liberation and freedom and rights for all women around the world?” she asked of her detractors. Sarsour will soon step down from AAANY to write a book and devote more time to politics. She won’t rule out running for national office one day.
The Fader



A fatwa first
Female Muslim clerics in Indonesia—whose gathering this week was considered a first—issued a rare fatwa against child marriage. They want the government to raise the legal age for women to marry from 16 to 18. Indonesia has among the highest number of child brides in the world with one in four women marrying before age 18. Fatwas are regularly issued in Indonesia, but usually by an all-male Islamic council. "Female clerics know the issues and obstacles women face," says Ninik Rahayu, the conference organizer. "[W]e can take action and do not just wait for the government to protect these children."

Ministerial milestone
Starting Monday, Singapore will have two female cabinet ministers for the first time ever. Josephine Teo, 48, joins the cabinet as “minister in the prime minister’s office,” as well as “second minister in the Ministry of Manpower.” Prior to Teo's appointment, 42-year-old Low Yen Ling was the only woman in the cabinet, serving as parliamentary secretary for trade, industry, and education.
Straits Times

Running for water
As she aims to complete 40 marathons in 40 days, ultra-runner Mina Guli frequently asks herself what we're all thinking: Why is she doing this? The Australian lawyer-turned-conservationist has a noble answer: to bring attention to water scarcity. She's logged miles along the world's great rivers—the Colorado, the Amazon, the Nile—and in 2012, founded Thirst, a global charity to educate young people on the topic. "I want a world where there is enough water for everyone forever," she says.

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler


Meet Roya Mahboob, an Afghan woman who became a chief executive at 23
Financial TImes

How Sheryl Sandberg's sharing manifesto drives Facebook

Ayesha Curry wants to be the Martha Stewart for millenials

How to send the perfect cold email, according to Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp

How engrained is sexism in Silicon Valley? Ask the women trying to get funding
New York Magazine


"Dissent is not enough."
--Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director, on why reaching across the political aisle is so important.