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Women of Chile, We Did It!
For the first time in the nation's history, a woman will assume presidential office
Maria Pastora Sandoval Campos (mariepelou)     Print Article 
Published 2006-01-17 19:19 (KST)   
Hundreds of people celebrate on the main avenue of Santiago, Sunday evening.
©2006 Felipe Galvez
To view a slideshow of Chilean photobloggers, click here (You must deactivate popup blockers.)

"Who had ever thought, my friends? Who would have thought 20, 10 or five years ago that Chile would elect a woman as a president?" said Michelle Bachelet, just after making history in her country.

Bachelet is the first woman in our country (and the fifth in Latin America) to become president. She won the run-off against Sebastian Pinera on Jan. 15 and will take office on March 11.

Women here are at a great disadvantage because Chile is a very traditional country and we never imagined this would happen. In fact, statistics show women in the workplace earn substantially less money than men.

President-elect Michelle Bachelet
©2006 MichelleBachelet.cl
Another example often cited as a glaring discrepancy in equality is that most people choose a male doctor over a woman because it is "more secure."

This is the national perspective on genders and with this election the traditions of the past are being broken. In the 1940s, Chilean women were given the right to vote, but now we will have a woman heading the country.

During lunch on election day, my mother, my sister, my boyfriend and I talked about having a woman as president. At that time, when things were still up in the air, we figured most would have second thoughts when casting their ballots and would opt for her male rival.

But the people proved us wrong: Bachelet won. Early Sunday evening we heard the first results after about 53 percent of the votes were confirmed. People began to go out into the streets to wave national flags and honk their horns.

The air in our neighborhood was suddenly transformed: It smelled like happiness and the streets sounded like the Chilean national soccer team had just won a major tournament. But instead of men shouting and waving soccer team T-shirts, there were women with flags and Bachelet's posters, shouting, "No more chauvinism"; "Women now have the power"; "We are proud to be women"; and "Now women have an opportunity!"

The media confirmed that most of the people in the streets were women celebrating.

On TV we saw actress Malucha Pinto on the main street of Santiago -- Alameda Bernardo O'Higgins Avenue -- saying she was happy because now we don't have a "patria" (meaning "country" or a word that is close to "father" in Spanish), rather, we have a "matria" (a word that sounds like "mother.") In Chile, mothers are very important because they "make the culture," but the men are always directing them.

That night, we listened to Bachelet's speech and we commented on how incredible it all is, how Chilean society has changed its way of thinking, the responsibility she now has with her presidency, and how gracious Sebastian Pinera looked when he congratulated her.

He didn't know a microphone was nearby and he told her with a smile, "It is not easy to lead a government." We think it is not very easy to a man, here in Chile, being beat by a woman, and even worse if she looks non-threatening.

"Turning the presidency over to a woman of Michelle's stature will be a privilege," said the current President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, at right.
©2006 Chile Govt
Men appear to be somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but they try not to be. I was reading some blogs and I found my friend Felipe Galvez saying: "Women. We already need them a lot day by day and now we want them up, very high, leading, organizing, directing. I don't really know if we want it that much, but to me it is not disagreeable to see them happy to have power."

Perhaps Chilean men are experiencing contradictory feelings. During the campaign, Pinera tried to show that Bachelet "is a woman" and we should not vote for her because she is a woman.

Looking out at the world, I wonder why women are not more present in government. Developed countries still have mostly men as officials. I was thinking maybe we are strange because we celebrate a woman being elected president, but it is not a difficult task to name all the women in power around the world -- because there are so few of them. Maybe we are not so strange after all.

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©2006 OhmyNews
Maria Pastora Sandoval Campos, who hails from Chile, is an assistant professor of digital journalism at a university in Santiago. She is working as a journalist and loves her career and its relation to the Internet. Her blog, in Spanish, is e-dentidad.
Other articles by reporter Maria Pastora Sandoval Campos

  Linked Story - Chilean Presidential Election Heads for Run Off...
  Linked Story - Welcome, Madame President!...

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