Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tea with Michelle Bachelet. Michelle Who????

Former Chilean President

Who is Michelle Bachelet? She is the former President of Chile and now the head of the new United Nations Women's Rights body.  She was the first female president of Chile and the first popularly elected South American president whose political career was independent of her husband. She is also a former pediatrician and the daughter of an army general who died after months of torture by Augusto Pinochet's forces. Ms. Bachelet also suffered torture by Pinochet's government before being exiled along with her mother who was an archeologist. It was while at the Humboldt University in East Berlin that she became active in socialist politics. She eventually returned to Chile in 1979 and completed her medical degree program. It was difficult for her to find a job under the Pinochet regime because of her family history but she ended up in a medical clinic treating victims of torture. It was after Pincochet's ouster in 1990 that Michelle became active in politics.

Michelle Bachelet
The first half of her presidential term was plagued with demonstrations and massive protests as well as strikes by copper miners. Her popularity fell sharply during this time but rebounded in the second half of her term because of her economic policies. She was able to have large profits set aside when the price of copper peaked. These savings funded pension reforms, social programs and a stimulus package to create jobs during the 2008 global financial crises. She is also credited with reducing poverty and improving early childhood education. These successes made her the most popular president in Chilean history. She is now heading the new United Nations Women agency.

Ms. Bachelet's is now focused on increasing female peacemakers and to end violence against women. She is in an organization whose processes are usually grid-locked by red tape. The body she is heading takes over from four existing, underfunded and relatively powerless institutions devoted to women's rights. Most observers feel Michelle  is the best person for the job. She has the tools to cajole and bully her way through UN diplomacy (aka red tape).

This former president is one of the very few who is smiling or laughing in almost all the images out there of her. Her smile makes one feel relaxed in her presence. I am looking forward to the amazing work this new body will be doing under her leadership. I hope she is able to break the pathetic mentality within the UN as it pertains to women.

Michelle Bachelet - Video
Encyclopedia Britannica
The Guardian

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