On June 8th, The White House Project and the Embassy of Chile will host a “women only” dinner in honor of the first woman president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. The dinner is women only at President Bachelet’s request, to note the importance of women in leadership roles. President Bachelet is a fifty-four year old single mother of a twelve-year-old daughter and 2 grown children. The former Minister of Health and Defense is a pediatrician and a socialist.
Her father, a general in the air force opposed the military government, was arrested and died in prison. Michelle Bachelet worked undercover for the Socialist Youth. She and her mother were imprisoned and tortured in 1975. They were held for weeks before being allowed to flee the country.
As a torture victim and pediatrician she has a unique perspective on government reform. “Because I am a doctor, I know when you have an injury it will heal itself if it is clean enough to heal. It your injury is dirty it wont heal. And so when you are talking in societies, we are also talking in a healing process, and for a good healing process you need to make things right.”
President Bachelet says she will build basis in “society where tolerance, understanding of diversity, integration and not discrimination, will be the main policies.” This, will not be easy in a conservative, Catholic dominated society. Only four percent of Chiles senators are women. Divorce was legalized only a year ago. While the growing economy in Chile is helping, she has a long way to go to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. Will a woman’s touch be able to heal the divides in Chilean society?
As for the personal life of Chile’s first woman president, Michelle Bachelet said, “ I am the mother of three. Right now I don’t have a partner… I hope there will come a time for my children, for my family, and if a boyfriend, better, but otherwise I can live. President Michelle Bachelet’s life shows us that while life is not always easy, if you persevere, you can reach the top. Young women today are fortunate enough to grow up in a world where they can see single mothers who are governing their countries.