This blog post was inspired by my friend Malou’s upcoming blog post on 10 things that inspire me. And it got me thinking...
Who inspires me? Strong women... from my mother, sisters, girl friends and grandmother to Aung San Suu Kyi, Christine Lagarde, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton... But if I had to pick a 'famous' inspiring person then I choose:
Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and Head of UN Women
Why does she inspire me? Because she has quietly fought against injustice, a patriarchal system, corruption and right wing dictatorships whilst being a mother, a daughter and a lover. She has never used her gender as a means to get forward but rather has shown that just because of her gender it doesn’t mean she can’t move forward. Famous for breaking gender barriers, Michelle Bachelet inspires with her passion, her expertise, and her courage to speak out on difficult issues, coming with a lot of renown and recognition.
Michelle Bachelet grew up during Pinochet’s right wing government in Chile (1973-1990), her father was imprisoned and tortured by Pinochet due to his allegiance to Allende (deposed democratic president), two years later Bachelet herself was imprisoned, tortured and beaten but instead of breaking, she helped the other prisoners by singing to them or helping treat the rape victims. Having survived this horrific ordeal, she was exiled to Australia. She studied defence policy and once Pinochet had relinquished power, became Latin America’s first female defense minister (incredible achievement considering how machista the army is!).
Her personal popularity propelled her to Chile’s presidency in 2006 and as president, she practiced a free market economics policy but also created sweeping social programs that she felt would help shrink the gap between the rich and the poor in her country which had one of the widest gaps in the world.
In 2010 she became the first head of UN Women and she is now applying the same strength, skill and resilience that she used as President of Chile to her role at UN Women – to improve the situation of millions of women worldwide, to give them the confidence to reach for the skies and to fight the great inequalities that many of them face.
“My own experience has taught me that there is no limit to what women can do — from those who support their families in the hardest of circumstances to those who become ministers of gender affairs, health, finance, foreign affairs — or heads of state. If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we must do even better in tapping into women’s strength, women’s industry, and women’s wisdom”