Michelle Bachelet leaves UN Women
Yesterday, at the end of the UN Conference on the Status of Women (UNSCW), Michelle Bachelet announced her resignation from office to the delegates: "This will be my last UNCSW, I am going back to my country".
The former Chilean president, with a portfolio as health and defense minister, was in office as Chile's head of state from 2006-2010. The Chilean constitution barres presidents from consecutive periods, so in 2010, when offered to lead a new women's division for gender equality and empowerment of women in the UN, she accepted the job as Executive Director of UN Women, and Undersecretary General of the United Nations.
General Secretary Ban Ki Moon have issued a statement saying: "Michelle Bachelet was the right person in the right job at the right time. Her visionary leadership gave UN-Women the dynamic start it needed. Her fearlessness in advocating for women’s rights raised the global profile of this key issue. Her drive and compassion enabled her to mobilize and make a difference for millions of people across the world.
Her record of achievement includes new steps to protect women and girls from violence, new advances on health, and a new understanding that women's empowerment must be at the core of all we do at the United Nations. This is a stellar legacy, and I am determined to build on it."
The mother of three, and educated Medical Doctor and Master in Military Science, is a social democrat who have been advocating women's rights and issues her whole life. One of her major successes in that regard while being President, was social protection programs for women and children, and tripling the number of free early child-care centers for low-income families. In her period as head of state, Chile completed some 3,500 child-care centers around the country.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says that Bachelet's departure from the U.N. is a “major bummer”, and credits her with preventing the collapse of the women’s rights conference, that yesterday adopted a consensus statement condemning violence against women and underscoring women's sexual reproductive health rights. The consensus almost unraveled after Egypt insisted the final document include a waiver that would allow states, based on their own customs and religious practices, to ignore their obligations under the agreement. Before the Conference started, a lobby consisting of Iran, Egypt, The Vatican State and Russia went out in media to gain support of reservations that would have sent women's equality back decades. This, Michelle Bachelet stopped - and although the "unholy alliance" reserved themselves from parts of the new document- they did not veto the new drafted text, a text that is considered major step forward in the work for women's equality worldwide.
The new consensus, 17 pages long, is a global plan to end violence against women, and gender discrimination. While not binding, the signers have agreed adopting new measurements to improve women's situation with regards to violence, legal protection and gender equality. The legacy Michelle Bachelet leaves behind is a broader understanding of women's potential to boost economy and development, and a consensus throughout the world that gender equality is here to stay, and be integrated in all signature states. 130 nations have signed the new document, out of the 190 countries having representatives present at the convention.
Speculations are high now, that we will see Michelle Bachelet running for president again, when the presidential elections campaign starts in Chile in November. Billions of women around the world will cheer for her!
Photo Credit: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina