“Michelle Bachelet Has a Mission” @gaylelemmon

September 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

gayle lemmon photoNew from Gayle Lemmon: her “first piece for Newsweek as a contributing editor at large writing stories about economics and development with a focus on women.”

Michelle Bachelet Has a Mission
The U.N. tapped Chile’s former president to help women. Will politicians let her succeed?

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

September 12, 2011 1:0 AM EDT

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called July 2, 2010, a “watershed day.” That was when the General Assembly approved the creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women—known simply as U.N. Women. Intended to give (in Ban’s words) “a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality” around the world, the organization replaced four underfunded and obscure bureaucracies devoted to women with a single entity that would finally give half the world’s population the high-profile platform it deserved.

Leading the new organization and charged with boosting its profile would be one of the world’s most powerful and inspiring women, Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile. Bachelet’s accomplishments are rooted in the traumatic experiences of her early adulthood. When Chile’s government was overthrown in a coup led by Augusto Pinochet in 1973, Bachelet’s father (an Air Force general who backed the deposed Salvador Allende) was arrested and tortured in prison. He came home briefly under house arrest before being thrown back in detention, where he died of a heart attack under suspicious circumstances in 1974 at the age of 51.

In January 1975, state security forces arrested Bachelet herself, then a 23-year-old medical student, and her mother, taped their eyes shut, and jailed them in Villa Grimaldi, a mansion turned into a house of terror where prisoners were routinely beaten, shocked with electricity, raped, and killed. Despite the ordeal, Bachelet refused to break, reportedly singing with other prisoners to keep sane and helping to treat women raped by the guards. Bachelet has never spoken in detail about the period, other than acknowledging that she was beaten, noting instead that she was one of the “lucky ones” who survived before being sent into exile in Australia following the intervention of family members.

Read the full article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/09/11/michelle-bachelet-has-a-mission-to-help-the-world-s-women.html

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