‘Women leaders can be popular without being populist’

Walk the Talk

In this Walk the Talk on NDTV 24x7, Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women and former Chilean president, speaks to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta about women in politics, her presidency and her new role

A paediatrician, a surgeon, an activist, a military scientist, a prisoner of conscience, a torture victim, and Latin America's first elected woman president: my guest this week is a wonderfully talented and accomplished person. Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and now executive director of UN Women.

I'm very happy to be here in Delhi, in India and with you.

You could easily pass off as an Indian.

Well, these are very comfortable clothes and fantastic for this weather too. When I'm in New York, I often wear Indian clothes because they are so comfortable.

Then that's one more ambassador for India at the UN.

Well, as the executive director of UN Women, I work with women from all countries of the world and, of course, India is very important. One out of every six women in the world comes from India. So I really look forward to working with them.

There are some very powerful women in our politics today. It's not just Mrs Gandhi. Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, they are really powerful women. In fact, they seem to be able to exercise power much better than our men do.

I cannot give an opinion on that but I am convinced that women are very good and as capable as men and of course, we can contribute with our own capacities, with our style of leadership, and that contributes to a more balanced society because half of humanity is women. So we need both men and women playing important roles in different dimensions of life.

You led a Latin American country and you've said that that region is still very much in the grip of machismo and sexism. It's very male-dominated. What was it like, and how did people relate to you? How did they figure how to deal with you? This is a loaded question. Is there a difference between the way women exercise power and men do?

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