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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."


13 Riveting Stories From the Summit

From a harrowing tale of sex trafficking in the U.S to a women's utopia in war-torn Somalia, read the incredible stories shared on stage at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit this weekend.

From a harrowing tale of sex trafficking in the U.S to a women's utopia in war-torn Somalia, read the incredible stories shared on stage at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit this weekend. Plus, photos from every event, video highlights, and complete coverage on our blog.


Marc Bryan-Brown

A Utopia in War-Torn Somalia
The heroic Dr. Hawa Abdi explained how she managed to take 1,300 acres in the middle of violence-plagued Somalia and run a peaceful community of 90,000 who receive medical care and food from the 63-year-old gynecologist. “If you don’t follow our rules, you lose your piece of land,” she said. "The boys who grew up in the camp are today the camp guards…We raised a whole generation of police,” added Abdi's daughter. The compound withstood a week of heavy shelling from 750 soldiers from the Party of Islam last year, when many of her staff was rounded up and executed. The militants put Dr. Hawa under house arrest, but she was eventually released. “I will die with my dignity,” she said.


Activist and Mormon missionary Elizabeth Smart tells ABC News' Juju Chang how she endured her terrifying abduction—and how to make girls stronger.

DVF Award winner Elizabeth Smart said today her religion helped her survive her terrifying months-long abduction from her Salt Lake City home when she was 14 and spoke about how she plans to help young girls avoid the violence she faced.


Elizabeth Smart (Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

"I was raised in a wonderful family, I was raised in the Mormon faith, which taught me from a very young age that I was a daughter of God," she said. "There was this man there [Smart's abductor, Brian David Mitchell] tellng me that I had been predestined to be here, that he was called a god, that it was right... I knew that it was wrong because I knew that a loving god would never do that to me," she said.

The Elizabeth Smart Foundation teaches kids to resist aggression through self-defense. "It gives you an awareness that you can fight back with anything, whether it's the back of your head, your teeth or your nails. It's wonderful," she said.

Good Morning America
anchor Juju Chang asked Smart how she had found the courage to testify against her captor Mitchell.

"It was someting that needed to be done. It's been eight years and it was just something that had to be done so i made the decision and I did it," she said.

Earlier in the panel, Girls Leadership Institute founder Rachel Simmons talked about how raising strong girls means, in part, battling against a mainstream media that tells girls to primarily value how they look. She joked that lip gloss is a "gateway drug" for pre-teens, who are increasingly feeling the need to wear makeup. Anita L. DeFrantz, who heads up the LA84 Foundation, talked about the power of sports to build strong girls.

Can women rule media? These women already are. Tina Brown, Arianna Huffington, Jezebel's Anna Holmes, MTV's Judy McGrath and ABC's Deborah Roberts talk shop.

Women have made all sorts of leaps and bounds over the last half-century, but a panel on media Saturday offered a frank level of discussion about where things have fallen short.

Arianna Huffington noted that when her website, The Huffington Post, started up five years ago, she found that her male friends were far more likely to embrace blogging than women. “Every man I invited said, ‘yes, of course’ and my women friends were really nervous about blogging unless they were journalists,” she said.

She came to conclude that the reason for this is that “women still have a problem with being judged. Much more than men. And anything we write, anything we do is going to be judged.”

judymcgrath-ariannahuffington -deborahroberts-annaholmes-tinabrown-women-in-the-world

Judy McGrath, Arianna Huffington, Deborah Roberts, Anna Holmes, and Tina Brown (Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

Deborah Roberts of ABC said that as a journalist with the network, she finds a certain divide between what women say they want to watch and what they actually watch. “Women say one thing but do another when they watch television,” she said, “I know I’m not working for NPR, that might be so easy these days, but the point is these stories we do, one story we did that rated highly was about a teenage murderer, a young igrl. It’s the same idea as reality TV. People want to see the weird twisted stuff or Charlie Sheen, but our Global Health Initiative stuff didn’t rate. There’s a lot of doublespeak. They want escapism even in news.”

Anna Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel, a website that devotes a fair amount of space both to Lindsay Lohan and women in Egypt, said that when she first conceived Jezebel, she was reacting to women’s magazines she’d worked at. “I was seeing content for women, but it was junk food. Glamour was a very good magazine when I was growing up; the time I was there it wasn’t as good. There was way too much about getting a man, keeping a man, pleasing a man, body image… I thought, if I can’t do it in print I’ll do it online…”

One of the things that enscapsulates her site’s loftier ideals and its baser instincts was a feature called "PhotoShop of horrors,” which offered up photos of female stars and how their pictures had been digitally altered. “We offered a bounty,” to get the photos, Holmes said, and it became a major source of traffic on the site.

Tina Brown, Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s editor in chief, who moderated the panel, didn’t dispute the notion that these altered images make it harder for women to attain their ideals, but she said she had a tough time getting worked up over it. When she gets photographed, Brown joked, “the first words out of my mouth are, 'Am I going to be retouched?'"

Judy McGrath of MTV, meanwhile, spoke about reality TV and how perhaps Jersey Shore wasn’t really anti-feminist after all. She noted reading an editorial about how the men on the show are all into “gym, tan, laundry” while the women are not. “The men do the cooking,” she added.

conference recap

What a Summit!

Hillary Clinton, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, author Ayaan Hirsi Ali and dozens of courageous activists took the 2011 Women in the World Summit to a new level. Our blog brings out the best of this groundbreaking event

See photos, watch video and read highlights from the conference.


2nd Annual WIW (The Daily Beast)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other human-rights advocates speak with Andrew Sullivan about the incendiary law.

In a passionate discussion late Saturday morning, three leading human-rights advocates debated whether Western societies should accept the Islamic veil as a valid religious and cultural practice for Muslim women—or whether it should be banned as a symbol of female repression.

The conversation couldn't be happening at a more relevant time, as the veil question reaches a fever pitch in Europe. As of next month, full-face veils (niqabs, often worn in tandem with the robes variously known as abayas or chadors; or burqas, the Afghani full-body covering with a face grill) will be illegal in any public place in France. This will include sidewalks, schools, banks, marketplaces, movie cinemas, theaters, buses, trains, hospitals, national museums—basically anywhere but a mosque, a private home or an automobile. Violators will face a substantial fine (€150) and will have to enroll in a citizenship class to better learn the values (liberté, égalité, fraternité, and most of all, laïcité) of the French republic.

On the final morning of the summit, the panelists—and moderator Andrew Sullivan, who'll soon bring his enormously popular Daily Dish to The Daily Beast—voiced mixed opinions on France's ban. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the native-born Somalian and former Dutch parliamentarian who has spoken out about Islam's underlying misogynistic tendencies, said the ban would help protect women coerced to wear the veil by their families: "Laws should protect them," she said. She said the veil debate should also serve as a catalyst to address honor killings and other violence against women inside Europe's Muslim immigrant communities that's often excused as religious practice, but in which the state should intervene, as it would for any non-Muslim citizen. "If the debate on the veil is going to open up that conversation, then it is a welcome debate," Hirsi Ali said.

However, the Council on Foreign Relations' Isobel Coleman worried the ban would serve to keep women out of public space and restrict their freedom of choice. She likened France's ban to the bans in Mideast countries on Western clothing, and said both were equally insidious.

"Clothing bans, whichever way they fall, are part of excluding women from the public space," said Coleman. "We begin to limit women's choices."

The true difficulty, as all the panelists pointed out, is that some women freely choose to wear a veil as a religious or cultural statement, while others are strongarmed into the practice. "How does the law tell the difference?" Sullivan asked. "We can't," replied Human Rights Watch's Liesl Gerntholz.

Still, Gerntholz said America can study the fallout from the French ban as the U.S. grapples with respecting Muslims' freedom of religion while still ensuring women's rights. "I'm curious to see how it plays out," she said.

Zainab Salbi challenges women to come to the aid of those who have their lives torn apart by relenless sexual violence.

Zainab Salbi, founder of the nonprofit Women for Women International, shared heartbreaking stories of women who have had their lives torn apart by the rape epidemic in Congo, challenging women to come to their aid by repeating "If you knew her you would care," after each story.

One woman was captured by rebel soldiers and sold to a commander for a case of beer. He raped her for three months, not even allowing her to go to the bathroom unaccompanied, Salbi said. But eventually, he helped her escape by disguising her in rebel clothes before the soldiers were ordered to kill all the women. "The one who slaved her is the one who saved her," Salbi said. "She talks about how grateful she was for this man who was evil and good all at the same time." But when she returned to her village, her husband would have nothing to do with her, as often happens to women who have been raped in the country. She was pregnant, and infected with STDs.

This woman, along with nearly 300,000 others around the world, participate in Salbi's Women for Women group, which encourages more fortunate women to through writing letters and sending $27 a month.

Photo Galleries on the Congo: Resilient Rape Survivors, Death by Machet, Pregnant and Displaced

Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, an organization that helps women survivors of war, shared the story of her childhood and the maid who she also called sister.

Zainab Salbi teared up when she spoke of Radya, who was both her her sister and maid growing up in Iraq. The founder of Women for Women International, Salbi has spent her life fighting to help survivors of war—one letter at a time. But until now, she hasn't spoken about the guilt she felt about her childhood. She was raised in an affluent family. They were part of Saddam's inner-circle and lived a "hip" life. When she was 5 years old, her mother brought Radya, 7, home and told Salbi this was her new sister. Salbi, being a spoiled little girl used to be the only daughter in the house, didn't like her at first. But they soon grew to be great friends. Salbi wrote about how the girls both left their house in 1990 in last week's NEWSWEEK. Radya, the poor girl, married for love. Salbi, the affluent one, ended up in an arranged marriage that took her to America.


Zainab Salbi (Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

War after war ravaged the country and the two women lost touch—until last year. That's when Radya joined Women for Women International after losing her husband to war and became internally displaced with six children.

Speaking at Saturday's summit, Salbi shared her journey in accepting the two women's different paths. "It's in our imperfections that we connect," she said. "Don't take life too seriously. All the guilt, it's not worth it. We go and cry, then we dance. We cry, then we dance again."


Welcome to Day Three!

Barbara Walters, Michelle Bachelet, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Sullivan and more share stories and solutions at the summit's final morning.

On the summit’s third and last day, our panels tackle an eclectic roster of issues affecting women, from the politics of the veil to the portrayal of women in media to raising stronger girls. Here’s a quick preview:

* The morning gets under way as Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, recounts her recent trip to Burma—and her private visit with Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

* Next up, Barbara Walters—the first female network news anchor, and a broadcast legend—interviews Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and current undersecretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of the newly launched U.N. Women

Gallery: Women in the World 2011 Video Highlights

* Later, blogger extraordinaire Andrew Sullivan—who’ll soon be bringing his hugely popular Daily Dish to The Daily Beast—will lead what promises to be a provocative conversation about a debate raging across Europe: Should countries ban the veil?

* Other early segments include a panel featuring the arresting stories of women victims in the Congo and a conversation between feminist icon Robin Morgan and Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, a prominent Egyptian writer, activist, and physician.


Hillary: It's a Women's Revolution

In a rousing keynote speech at Friday's summit, Secretary Clinton doubled down on her commitment to women’s rights in the Middle East, unveiled a new State Department partnership with all-girls colleges, and called pointedly for a future female presiden

Read Newsweek's Lisa Miller's story on the appearance.

Vital Voices co-founder Alyse Nelson shares her surreal trip to Suu Kyi's run-down compound in Burma, and the dissident's message to women.

Vital Voices co-founder Alyse Nelson took a rare and frightening journey into Burma to personally present democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi with a leadership award. Nelson said she had to pose as a tourist to enter the country, and that the oppressive government clearly hadn't Googled her and discovered her human-rights background before granting her a visa—something that's been denied to U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown twice.


Alyse Nelson and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

Nelson quickly realized she was being followed.

"The scariest moment was handing the piece of paper to the taxi driver of where we were going. We were going to [Suu Kyi's] headquarters. He looked nervous. I thought maybe he wasn't going to take us there, maybe he was going to take us somewhere else," she said. Nelson was surprised when she finally arrived at Suu Kyi's house. "She works out of a hovel, it is a broken-down building, just a shack," she said. "I wouldn't have known it was a place if I didn't see the National League for Democracy sign."

Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the last 22 years under house arrest, was modest when Nelson asked her if it was wearying to be such a role model. 

"I'm not an icon," she said. "I really don't see myself that way. I'm a woman who has a job to do."


Empowered Women Empower Economies

New studies show that educating and investing in women improves GDP.

Divya Keshav, owner of Krishna Printernational in India, took over her family's label-printing company in 2008—with no experience running a business. But a four-month training program funded by Goldman Sachs, called 10,000 Women, helped her acquire basic skills such as negotiating, networking and managing a balance sheet. Within two years, she doubled the company's annual revenue.


Divya Keshav, Dina Habib Powell and Gillian Tett ((Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown))

But Divya and her fellow local alumni from the 10,000 Women program aren't content to just be successful businesswomen. They're also determined to empower the women in their communities. Divya has begun training and hiring women and instituted a three-month paid maternity leave, which is rare in India's private sector. She's also working with her alumni network to build an orphanage.

This kind of community engagement exemplifies the mission of 10,000 Women, and was the subject of a far-reaching discussion on Friday at a panel called "Global Women on the Rise," featuring Dina Habib Powell of Goldman Sachs, Zainab Salbi, of Women for Women International, and Gillian Tett, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times. Since Goldman Sachs started the program in 2008 under the leadership of Powell, 3,500 women from 20 different countries have received business training, and 70 percent of them were able to boost the revenue of their companies. The Goldman program, which is the largest private sector investment in history for women's economic empowerment, will spend $100 million on the initiative over the next five years.

Zainab, Dina, and Divya and the women whose lives they've touched are on the cusp of a vast cultural shift in which women are earning the recognition that their advancement in business benefits not only their communities, but their entire nations. No country that inhibits women's participation in business can reach its economic potential.


How Fashion Saves Lives

With the help of Vital Voices, women from impoverished countries are supporting their lives and communities with their own designer collections.

For Rebecca Lolosoli, the head of an all-female sanctuary village in Kenya, “a determination to survive spawned a jewelry business.”


Debbie Farah, Phelicia Dell, Rebecca Lolosoli, Diane von Furstenberg and Robin Givhan ((Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown))

Perched on the Women in the World stage, the Kenyan designer was clad in an arresting fuschia cape, one of her signature, multi-layered drape necklaces, and a royal blue, tribal-patterned skirt with elaborate beading and bells that jingled as she shifted in her seat.

In introducing Friday’s “Making a Must-Have Market” panel, Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices, shared Lolosoli's remarkable story and explained how, with the help of organizations like Vital Voices and fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, women who lack personal resources have risen to become international fashion and jewelry designers.

As a board member of Vital Voices, von Furstenberg was inspired to collaborate with Lolosoli after her stunning beaded necklaces caught her eye. "It’s a responsibility to work with these people, because the last thing you want to do is build people’s expectations and then abandon them like a soufflé,” she said.

For Phelicia Dell, a Haitian single mother, designing clothes and handbags became a way to support her family after her husband died. She joined the Vital Voices chapter in Haiti, which led her to compete in von Furstenberg’s global handbag competition. “People look at me now and say, ‘Oh, if DVF says she’s good then she’s good.’ I don’t think she knows how much she has helped me as an artist.” Von Furstenberg reached over and squeezed Dell's hand.

african tech

Lighting The Way For Women in Africa

Can high tech innovations bring change to developing nations?

In many regions of Africa, kerosene is expensive, electricity is unreliable, and women are living in poverty. But sunlight is free – and plentiful. Enter Solar Sisters, a program that turns African women into entrepreneurs who sell solar-powered lights that charge during the day and provide illumination at night. As a result,  children can do their homework later, stores can stay open, and families can have nighttime lights without the dangers of open flames, dirty fuel, or hot oils. Just as importantly, the income from the lights allows women to invest in their families and gain status in their communities.

“If you’re poor, people think even your brain is so poor that you can’t contribute anything,” says Eva Walusimbi, herself a Solar Sister in Uganda. “Every day, women can contribute by selling these lights.” In an afternoon panel entitled “Women, Tools, Technology: A Global Leapfrog,” Walusimbi shared powerful stories of families who lost everything in house fires caused by candles and children who’s noses were turned black from kerosene smoke, as well as examples of how innovations like Solar Sisters both improve the basic quality of life for women in Africa and provide much needed income – both lifelines in developing countries.

After all, women can’t go to school, serve in political office, or fight for change if they’re too busy farming, gathering fuel, and trying to find clean water. But if technology exists to make those tasks easier, women flourish – and so does their community. “As women are able to increase their incomes through new technologies, to become more efficient through farmers and laborers, the money they are earning goes back to support their family,” investing in education for their children, purchasing more nutritious foods, and spending less time away form home says Jocelyn Wyatt, the social innovation lead at IDEO, a design and consulting firm.

Getting that technology to the right places, and modifying it to meet the specific cultural and geographical needs of women in need, is still a challenge. Much of the farming and housing technology being developed is done by men living far from the communities most in need, who are unconnected with the end user. The result, says Wyatt, are products that are “too heavy to carry, don’t fit in with the lifestyle or don’t meet the cultural needs” of the women who would most benefit.

Thankfully, global corporations, NGOs, and independent entrepreneurs are working hard to ensure that new technology directly benefits women – and that women have access to the tools that can change their lives. (In fact, it’s from an Exxon Mobile initiative aimed at designing women-friendly technology that this panel took its name.)

For Walusimbi, the difference technology has made in her life is literally the difference between night and day. “It’s changing the women’s lives,” she says of the Solar Sister lights.  “For a long time African woman in Uganda, have been behind the curtain.” Now, thanks to programs like Solar Sisters, they are able to step into the light.

"Tiger Mother" Amy Chua, entrepreneur Wendi Deng Murdoch and Newsweek's Melinda Liu on the shifting goals of women in the world’s fastest-growing economy.

These days, America is watching China carefully as the Middle Kingdom roars toward economic dominance—but it turns out that Chinese women are looking to the West for answers. So said panelists Amy Chua, Wendi Deng Murdoch, and Newsweek’s Melinda Liu during Friday’s Women in the World discussion, which focused on the shifting status and aspirations of women in the world’s fastest-growing economy.


Amy Chua, Wendi Deng Murdoch, Melinda Liu and Charlie Rose ((Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown))

Chinese women have been a stunning success story as the country has opened itself to capitalism and prosperity. As the panel's moderator, legendary broadcaster Charlie Rose, noted, one-third of China's millionaires are women and China boasts 11 of the world's 20 richest self-made women. Today in China, women are engineers, entrepreneurs, millionaires, businesswomen, said Murdoch, wife of News Corporation mogul Rupert Murdoch and a savvy entrepreneur in her own right. (Her film company, Big Feet productions, is producing an adaptation of the bestselling novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, whose trailer was shown at the conference Friday.)

It's this incredible economic success that's led Western economies to worry about falling behind and helped catapult books about Chinese education and parenting methods into the spotlight—books such as panelist Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which discusses cultural differences in parenting methods and Chinese parents' strict focus on success.

But in an interesting twist that all three panelists highlighted, Chinese women are very open to and interested in Western influences. Chua told an anecdote of how her book is being marketed very differently in China: there, the tome's title is a rough translation of "Parenting Lessons From Yale Law Professor," and the cover displays Chua's face on a star-spangled, red-white-and-blue background. Her mainland Chinese friends explained to her that a book about harsh parenting methods wouldn't make a splash in China. Instead, her book is supposed to show Chinese mothers how to be more lenient with their kids and appreciate children's individual personalities (a transformation Chua underwent the final third of her book). "More independence, more emphasis on individuality and freedom. That's how it's being marketed in China," Chua said. (A sample Marie Claire China question for the author: "Tell Chinese audiences how you are so good at being friends with your daughter".)

Women in the World Summit

Women in the World Highlights

The 2011 Summit brought together extraordinary women from around the globe. Watch the most inspiring moments.


13 Riveting Stories From the Summit

From a harrowing tale of sex trafficking in the U.S to a women's utopia in war-torn Somalia, read the incredible stories shared on stage at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit.


150 Women Who Shake the World

They are heads of state and heads of household, angry protesters in the city square and sly iconoclasts in remote villages. Newsweek and The Daily Beast honors local heroes, and the growing network of powerful women who support their efforts.


Best of the Women in the World Summit

Newsweek and The Daily Beast's second annual Women in the World summit brought together Hillary Clinton, Egyptian bloggers, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and dozens of inspiring activists from around the globe.

Women in the World: Telling Stories

Tina Brown sat down with Charlie Rose to speak about the purpose of the Women in the World summit. "By dramatizing these stories to people, by showing them women and hearing from them, letting them connect with them, they feel so much more aroused to help," she said.


See Who's Joining Us at the Summit!

From Hillary Clinton and Hawa Abdi to Christiane Amanpour and Nawal El Saadawi,see the participants in the 2011 Women in the World Summit.


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