President Michelle Bachelet Jeria (Chile)
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
President Michelle Bachelet Jeria (Chile) Awarded for:
Her exceptional contribution to the fight for democracy at the global stage. She is a friend of South Africa who has strengthened relations between South Africa and Chile.
Profile of Her Excellency President Michelle Bachelet Jeria (Chile)
Her Excellency President Michelle Bachelet Jeria is a woman of courage who has faced many difficulties fighting against injustices in her country, Chile. She identifies and has close links with the people of South Africa.
President Bachelet was invited to the 12th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in August 2014. During the occasion she announced that Chile would erect a statue in honour of former President Mandela in the capital Santiago, and introduce the Mandela scholarship programme which would assist South African students to study in Chile.
She was first elected President of Chile from 2006 to 2010, and became the first woman to be elected to that position. She was elected again to that position in December 2014. Between her two presidencies she served as the first Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
In 2014 and in recognition of her sterling work on women’s rights and leadership, President Bachelet was among the four Latin Americans to be included on the list of the world’s influential figures. Her first term as President of Chile was characterised by the government’s focus on achieving greater equality and social inclusion in her homeland. In 2000 President Bachelet served as the Minister of Health and in 2002 she was the first woman Minister of Defence in Chile and all of Latin America.
In 1970 President Bachelet studied medicine at the University of Chile and became an active member of a youth social group, where her ambition and commitment were to serve others and build a better country.
She endured continual victimisation and interrogation by state agents at the Villa Grimaldi and Cualro Alamos detention centres, where she was detained with her mother. In 1975 she was expelled from Chile, lived in exile in Australia and Germany, and continued to study medicine.
She got married to Chilean architect Jorge Davalos on her return to Chile and received her Bachelor’s degree in Surgery in 1979. Despite her suffering President Bachelet continued in her resolve to serve the people of Chile, and assisted on various national and international projects with the ambition of creating improved social circumstances for people in need, especially the vulnerable.