WCI also works with rape victims and orphans as well as the “market women” who are often the bedrock of local economies. And its new First Ladies’ Legacy Initiative, launched in September, will help African First Ladies from some 25 nations address women’s issues in their countries. The organization is increasingly moving into post-conflict regions — Sudan, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka — because “the opportunity for women’s leadership is greater in the wake of conflict,” Margolies says.
After more than a decade of work abroad, WCI is branching out into Philly, with a pilot program targeting teenagers. “We use the same model as with young girls in Africa,” executive director Kerri Kennedy explains. “We help them decide on a local issue in their community and create an advocacy campaign.” One team compiled a Facebook resource center for teen moms; another developed a PowerPoint presentation for ninth-graders at Freire Charter School on school violence and its consequences. A girl can be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Philadelphia the same way she can in Mozambique.
AS FOR HER OWN LIFE, this is about as reflective as Margolies gets: “Life is filled with peaks and troughs, and you’ve got to be able to push up out of the troughs.” She remembers walking on the beach once with her son Vu, who’s now a doctor in Jersey. “Vu is very cerebral,” Margolies says. “We were walking along, and he said to me, ‘You know, think about it. Suppose my folder had been on a different desk the day when they were picking kids to leave Vietnam?’” It’s not the sort of question she spends time examining; life’s too random for that. You do a story on adoption, and you wind up with 11 kids. You go to a conference in China, and you get a Malawian woman elected to Parliament. You cast a vote because the President needs you, and his daughter winds up marrying your son. On this November afternoon, she’s looking forward to spending the holidays with her family. “I love the tumult,” Margolies says, “of when they’re all around.”