Woman of the week
Monday, 4 March 2013
IWD 2013: Celebrating Michelle Bachelet, Exec Director, UN Women
Our IWD 2013 Woman of the Week : Day 2
"While women constitute over half of humanity, they are far from enjoying equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation and leadership with men."
Michelle Bachelet, the former serving President of Chile, is the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. She was President of Chile from March 2006 to March 2010 and then assumed office at UN Women in September 2010, having been appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Women was established in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly.
A long-term champion of women's rights, Ms Bachelet has advocated for gender equality and women's empowerment throughout her career. During her time in the Chilean government, Ms Bachelet, as the then Defence Minister, introduced gender policies intended to improve the conditions of women in the military and police forces. Equally, while serving as Minister of Health, she implemented healthcare reform, improving attention to primary care facilities with the aim of ensuring better and faster healthcare responses for families.
While serving as President of Chile, one of Michelle Bachelet's most significant successes was her decision to save billions of dollars in revenues to spend on issues such as pension reform, social protection programmes for women and children, and research and development. All this, despite the financial crisis.
Ms Bachelet, now in her early 60s, originally trained as a doctor, with graduate studies in Military Sciences. Her command of languages includes Spanish, English, German, French and Portuguese. She is a single mother of three children and famously said : "I am a women, socialist, separated and agnostic - all the sins together." This quote serves to underline her robust approach to life, humanity and sense of humour.
In her opening speech, as the first Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet outlined her vision and 100-Day Action Plan. Describing the UN Women vision, she declared the following :
"UN Women's vision is one where men and women have equal opportunities and capacities, where women are empowered and where the principles of gender equality are firmly embedded in all efforts to advance development, peace and security. Our fundamental objective is to enhance national capacity and ownership to enable national partners to formulate gender-responsive laws and policies and to scale up successful strategies to deliver on national commitments to gender equality."
She also outlined UN Women's five thematic priorities. All of which are close to Platform 51's own beliefs and values, and will be close to the heart of all those around the world fighting for the cause of women and equality of opportunity. These are : Expanding women's voice, leadership and participation; Ending violence against women; Strengthening implementation of women's peace and security agenda; and finally, Enhancing women's economic empowerment.
In a recent speech, earlier this year in Dublin on 21st February, Michelle Bachelet gave the Kapuscinski lecture which she entitled 'The century of inclusion and women's full participation'. You can see a video excerpt of that speech here. You can read some powerful and pithy excerpts from her speech below :
"After a century of progress and change, it is clear that in societies with more gender equality, democracy is stronger, economies are more developed and peace is a priority."
"The 21st century must be the century of inclusion and that has to include women's leadership and participation."
"We applaud women's grassroots organisations for their role in promoting peace and reconciling communities, but we do not seem to have properly supported them and empowered them."
"We need to advance universal values with universal coverage. Education and healthcare, safe water and sanitation, housing and energy, and decent work are not charitable contributions or government handouts; they are rights to which every human being is entitled.
This is especially important for girls and women. Today, no society has achieved gender equality."
Platform 51 is proud to make Michelle Bachelet its Woman of the Weeek on Day 2 of the week of International Women's Day 2013. We look forward to many more years of her strong leadership at the helm of UN Women.
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