Michelle Bachelet

03.12.11

Michelle Bachelet: Women Are Smart Investments

The first female president of Chile tells Barbara Walters how the U.N. hopes to bring about equality in some of the most oppressive countries in the world.

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet told ABC's Barbara Walters Saturday that she's hopeful about her organization's daunting task of bringing about gender equality around the world. Bachelet is running the newly launched United Nations group U.N. Women.

Michelle Bachelet and Barbara Walters
(Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

"We're not starting from zero," Bachelet said, adding that the U.N. partners with grassroots women's organizations even in countries that grant very few rights to women. "I have to tell you the only possible way to really ensure women's rights is to empower them. That's why for me, empowerment is essential."

Bachelet said bringing about economic equaity is crucial to empowerment, and that the best way to do that is to convince governments that women are smart investments.

"That's a tough job," Walters responded.

"It is, but there's so many wonderful women everywhere doing so many things. There are women that are being raped and women that are being harrassed, put in jail, whatever, but there's always this capacity for resilience, standing up again, organizing themselves."

Bachelet added that she sees a "huge opportunity" in the Middle East for women to get more rights as some countries may soon be re-writing their constitutions.

Bachelet said she hopes to recruit more women U.N. peacekeepers in regions like Congo to show people that women can be in positions of power and to be more effective at preventing rapes. She said a Congolese woman who was gang-raped by rebels asked the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights to help stop the epidemic of sexual violence in the country. "What reparation do I want? I do not want money," the woman said. "The only reparation I want is for you to see rape as not my problem, but your problem."

Walters asked Bachelet if she would consider running for president of Chile again, to which Bachelet responded, "I'm working for the women in the world, today, that's my essential issue."