Long-Time Champion of Women’s Rights Honored with ABA Rule of Law Award
By Maria Gutierrez
American Bar Association News Service
WASHINGTON— United Nations Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet, a woman of many firsts, is the recipient of the 2011 Rule of Law Award from the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative. Bachelet, also the executive director of U.N. Women, received the award on October 5 during ABA ROLI’s Annual Rule of Law Award Dinner in Washington, D.C.
Bachelet, the first woman president of Chile and first female minister of defense in Latin America, is the first Hispanic to be presented with the ABA Rule of Law Award. Bachelet, who held ministerial portfolios in the Chilean government, introduced gender policies intended to improve the conditions of women in the military and police forces; and implemented health care reform, increasing attention on primary care facilities, with the aim of ensuring better and faster health care response for families.
At this year’s “Women & the Rule of Law” themed award dinner, the ABA ROLI award honoree stressed the importance of women’s involvement in the law. “Women’s empowerment and leadership matter—where women’s voices are heard and their demands are heeded, the rule of law stands a better chance of being deeply rooted within society and institutionalized to deliver justice” said Bachelet during the award keynote remarks.
The award was presented by ABA immediate-past President Stephen N. Zack who, during his remarks leading up to the award presentation, recognized ABA ROLI’s work around the world in supporting the rule of law and globally advancing women’s rights, among other efforts. Zack is currently chair of the ABA ROLI Board.
The Rule of Law Award was established in 1994 to honor leaders—and the countries they represent—who have taken significant steps towards implementing democratic and market reforms in their country. The award selection criteria considers the progress of legal reform, the protection of human rights, the advancement of a free market economy, and whether the international stature of the nominee was used to advance democracy and the rule of law not only in his or her country, but throughout the region and the world.
Bachelet, a long-time champion of women’s rights, has advocated for gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout her career. One of her major accomplishments as president of Chile was to use billions of dollars in revenues on issues such as pension reform, social protection programs for women and children, and research and development—despite the financial crisis. Other initiatives included tripling the number of free early child care centers for low-income families, and the completion of some 3,500 child care centers around the country.
Currently serving as the first under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, Bachelet leads efforts on gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global, regional and country levels.