Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Homa Khaleeli

The Guardian March 7, 2011

Article History

Michelle Bachelet

Former president and defence minister of Chile who is now head of UN Women

Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, is used to being first. She was the first female president of the South American country after becoming its first female defence minister. Now aged 59, she is the first head of the newly created UN Women, the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality.

The former paediatrician and epidemiologist is now promoting female empowerment across the globe. On taking up the new role she said: “We have a historic opportunity to accelerate the achievement of what champions of gender equality have worked towards for years.”

Her early life prepared her for such challenges. As a student, Bachelet survived torture after her father, an army general, opposed the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. As a divorced, agnostic mother of three in a Catholic country, her 2005 election campaign focused on meeting the needs of the country’s poor, reforming the pension system and promoting the rights of women and indigenous communities. As one panel member said, she is a sign of hope for women who suffered in Latin America’s brutal politics: “She talks to anyone who lost someone in the dirty war – and is an example of how you can turn your hatred to something positive.”

Once in office, Bachelet shattered the conservative image of Chilean politics, ensuring half her cabinet were women. She also introduced women-friendly policies such as tripling the number of free creches. Although she encountered criticism over her response to the 2010 tsunami in which more than 500 Chileans died, her handling of the impact of the global financial crisis – she had insisted on saving money during the country’s boom years – meant she left office as one of the most popular presidents in Chilean history


  1. Such a great person

  2. Hmmm, a fiscally responsible politician? What can we learn from her methods? Thanks for sharing!

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