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Marital Rape in EgyptSo far, no legal action has occurred to criminalize marital rape in Egypt. As an Islamic country, Sharia law manages issues involving marriage, inheritance, divorce and child custody.

A Voice on Instagram

Egyptian fashion designer Nada Adel was married to Tameem Youness, a musician. Now divorced, Adel said in an Instagram video that people should not ignore rape just because two people are married. She claims her husband raped her while they were married for a year. This sparked debate over social media and many women called for legal action.

Adel’s ex-husband denied her claims, and those in favor of Sharia law claimed that marital rape in Egypt was nonexistent. In fact, social media user Amr Sabry argued that unless a woman is too sick or too tired, rape cannot exist within the marriage.

Who is Joining the Cause?

Actresses like Mona Zaki have spread awareness in the past by playing wives in scenes where the husband tries to force intercourse. More celebrities are taking action by prompting legislation to criminalize marital rape in support of Adel. Journalist Amr Adeeb and actress Somaya El Khashab are just two examples of renowned individuals fighting for a change in legislation.

In June 2021, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement about the violence women experience in Egypt. Bachelet stated that violence percentages have risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many staying home and quarantining, women have suffered at the hands of their husbands. She claimed that many women do not report the men out of fear of their community shaming them, family members initiating verbal or physical attacks on them and authorities not believing them.

Further, many women cannot report marital rape in Egypt because many do not see marital rape as an issue. Bachelet has urged for change in legislation for a better future for women in Egypt.

Religious Boundaries

Currently, a woman who reports marital rape may only succeed in their husband receiving a charge for hitting them, resulting in a misdemeanor for the husband. Ahmed El-Sabag, a scholar with Al-Azhar, claims that a husband forcing a wife into intercourse is unlawful under Sharia law.

Quoting two verses from the Quran, El-Sabag says that a husband must not have sex with his wife while she is menstruating, as to remain pure. Purity is something the relationship should have before intercourse. Therefore, violent husbands are in violation of Islamic Sharia.

The second verse explains that since wives carry children, they have a task of honor and should receive honorable treatment. A husband should show righteousness when approaching his wife and keep in mind that he respects Allah when doing so.

How Less Sexual Violence Leads to Less Poverty

Women who depend on someone else to provide food, water, shelter, clothing and more often feel they do not have a right to revoke consent, especially if they have children. However, victims of sexual violence are often the ones living in poverty. As those at greater risk, women become marginalized, leading to more stigma that results in wage gaps, violence and dependency. This leads to more families and women in poverty.

A Movement of Hope

Islamic Sharia law prohibits marital rape. It is the stigma surrounding gender that causes people to take the Quran out of context. Therefore, criminalizing marital rape for Egyptians would not violate religious expectations. As many women and men fight for these human rights, hope is an enduring light.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Chile
Although Chile has one of the most prosperous economies in Latin America, it has been criticized for being slow to pass legislation that protects women’s rights. However, while there are still barriers to gender equality, great progress has been made. Here are six facts about women’s rights in Chile.

6 Facts About Women’s Rights in Chile

  1. Women’s rights in Chile have greatly improved over the last few decades. Women’s rights faced a slow start, with women finally gaining the right to vote in all elections in 1949. However, attempts at further progress between 1973 to 1988 were blocked by Chile’s authoritarian military regime. Chile became a democracy again in 1990, and since then, has been able to focus on improving women’s rights.
  2. Divorce, which was nonexistent in Chile, finally became legal in 2004. This event is seen as a win for women’s rights, as Chile has high rates of domestic violence. With divorce finally an option, women have a much better chance of escaping toxic and abusive relationships. Additionally, over the past two decades, the government has passed legislation that benefits single, working mothers. Women in need now have access to subsidized child care and maternity leave, furthering their ability to leave unhealthy relationships.
  3. The number of women in the Chilean Government has increased. Michelle Bachelet became president in 2006, making her the first female president of Chile. Since then, the government created quotas to increase women’s presence in government. Now, 40% of Parliament candidates are required to be female. To support this initiative, a non-profit called La Morada is actively working with women and encouraging political participation. Because of these changes, there has been a sharp increase in women holding government positions.
  4. The Chilean government is continuing to address women’s rights. In 1991, the government created the National Women’s Service (SERNAM) to advance women’s rights in Chile. It assists in creating woman-centered legislation that advocates for greater rights and representation for women. SERNAM has received increased funding in recent years, which has allowed it to continue and widen its work. Furthermore, Chile’s national action plan focuses on combatting domestic and sexual abuse. The government is creating programs to educate and train communities to best handle these sensitive situations, as well as opening centers that serve as safe havens for survivors of abuse.
  5. Women are being empowered to rise out of poverty and pursue education and careers. Women, especially women living in poverty, have historically had lower employment rates in Chile. The government has been striving to provide jobs for 300,000 women to bridge these gaps and encourage female employment. To ensure mothers can return to work, the government has increased access to daycare facilitates. This allows women to raise children while also providing for their families financially.
  6. Women have been active leaders of protests. Chile has recently experienced a period of severe political and social unrest. During this time, there have been frequent protests against the unfair actions of the government. Women activists in Chile have fought against the patriarchal values that have been historically enforced in their country. They repeatedly use the phrase “Nunca más sin nosotras” at many protests, which translates to “Never again without us women.” By participating in and leading these events, women are asserting that they will continue to fight for increased women’s rights in Chile.

These six facts about women’s rights in Chile highlight the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done. Gender equality can only be achieved if this issue remains a priority. With continued efforts by both the government and activists, there is hope for women’s rights to continue to improve in Chile.

Hannah Allbery
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sudan
Located in northeastern Africa, Sudan has long been a diverse region of interaction between continental Africa and the Mediterranean. The country is home to hundreds of sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, and political and security challenges in recent decades have impacted it. In addition to displacement, the scattered population has recently suffered several outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever (RVF), chikungunya and malaria.

Healthcare in Sudan faces both unique geographical and financial barriers to access. Improvements in health indicators are difficult to measure since they vary by region. Additionally, efforts to improve healthcare access have met with challenges. These include ineffective implementation of policies and poor coordination between the health and education sectors.

Financial Barriers

Postcolonial Sudan had free access to healthcare until the 1990s when the government gradually withdrew healthcare service provision. To retain healthcare access, Sudanese people often relied on borrowing money from relatives, working more and reducing expenditure on other vital living expenses. Many resorted to buying partial recommended treatments, resulting in further health complications.

Despite reducing support for healthcare, the Sudanese government also invested in higher medical education around the same time. It opened 30 new medical schools and made Sudan the country with the highest number of medical schools in Africa. This investment was an important step in the sustainable progress of healthcare in Sudan. It ensured a steady increase of healthcare professionals for the growing population of 42 million. Consequently, the physician-to-patient ratio improved from 0.1 per 1,000 people in 1996 to 0.41 per 1,000 people in 2015.

In 1997, in an effort to compensate for reduced government spending on health, the Ministry of Health introduced social health insurance (SHI). By 2017, SHI covered most of the population in Khartoum state and a few others. Despite internal efforts, healthcare in Sudan receives little international support. Compared with 50% of healthcare expenditure in Rwanda, only 5.4% of Sudan’s healthcare expenditure comes from external aid. The Sudanese government spends a comparable amount on healthcare to other sub-Saharan countries. However, the cost of healthcare for Sudanese citizens remains high, and many are uninsured.

Current Challenges

Sudan is struggling to retain healthcare workers, many of whom leave the country for better living and working conditions. To reduce physician migration, the Sudanese government has offered various incentives to specialists, such as generous salaries, leading positions, housing, transport and free education for offspring. However, the government cannot afford to sustain these efforts in the long-term or extend these benefits to all physicians.

Michelle Bachelet, a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, argued that sanctions that the U.S. imposed have barred Sudan from receiving international funding for healthcare and COVID-19 relief. Sudan is on the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which makes it ineligible to access any of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank’s $50 billion Trust Fund. This fund is currently assisting vulnerable countries to fight COVID-19. Sudan’s health minister Akram Ali Altom has also confirmed that the healthcare system is in urgent need of funding.

Geographical Barriers

As in many African countries, the main challenges to healthcare in Sudan are in rural areas. There, conflict, lack of transport and uneven distribution of resources reduce the availability of healthcare workers. An estimated 70% of the total healthcare providers are in the capital city Khartoum, serving just 20% of the population.

One way that some Sudanese states have addressed the problem has been through the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine has the potential to break down geographical barriers and increase access to high quality, specialist care to patients. A two-year pilot program in Gezira introduced electronic health records into the area for the first time. More than 165,000 new patients were able to register for consultations.

Sudan has many challenges to overcome before telemedicine can become a national success. Consultants located in the Khartoum center were not responsive. Additionally, issues involving software licensing and equipment maintenance have hindered smooth operations. As Salah Mandil, who led the first telemedicine project in Khartoum, noted, poor collaboration between scattered telemedicine projects has hindered efficiency and growth. For instance, projects such as the Surveillance project (FMOH) and the eHealth project have begun independently in various areas. However, they do not communicate or coordinate efforts.

Despite challenges to stability and safety, Sudan has made steps toward improving healthcare access in the past decade. To ensure equal and sustainable healthcare in Sudan, it must address the remaining challenges through better cooperation, management and funding from the government and international aid organizations.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Chile
Located on the western edge of South America, Chile is a densely populated country and home to as many as 18.05 million people. Unlike many other countries in Latin America, Chile has a relatively stable government, economy and society as a whole. In the text below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Chile are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Chile

  1. Being one of the most stable governments in the region, Chile is the Representative Democratic Republic in which the president is elected by a majority vote with a 40 percent voter turnout as of 2017. Michelle Bachelet has been the president since 2014. According to the OECD, 60 percent of Chileans feel like they have a say in what the government does. For comparison, only 33 percent of Venezuelans feel like they have a say in their government’s actions.
  2. Chile has the lowest level of corruption in Latin America and the country has a score of 67 out of 100 on the International Corruption Index, the highest score out of all other countries in Latin America  For comparison, Venezuela has a score of 18, lowest in the continent.
  3. Chile has an extremely stable economy. The GDP per capita stands at $24,000. The country earns $56.32 billion in exports and $56.86 billion in imports. China, the U.S. and Japan are Chile’s top three trading partners. The living cost for residents of Chile is very low, with an average of $939 of monthly living expenses.
  4. The Chilean government provides all citizens with access to free public health care through the Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA). However, hospitals tend to be overcrowded and urban areas such as the capital Santiago have better equipment than rural areas and smaller towns.
  5. Most Chileans have internet and telephone access. An estimated 73.9 percent of the population uses smartphones as of 2016, according to eMarketer. The Chilean government has recently implemented a tech visa allowing entrepreneurs to acquire a visa in just 15 days.
  6. The unemployment rate in Chile has dropped dramatically from 13.50 percent in 1986 to 6.7 percent in December 2018. The employment rate is at 55 percent and the average hourly wage is $7.27, which is also very high compared to Chile’s neighboring countries.
  7. Chilean women still struggle to attain equal rights. Although Chile has made progress in terms of electing a woman to the highest office in the country, women still earn about 25 percent less than men. In addition, Chilean women are encouraged to work caretaking jobs whereas men work industrial jobs such as engineering, electricity and construction. Ever since Michelle Bachelet has been in office, she has been working to advance women’s rights in Chile.
  8. According to UNICEF, 93.4 percent of males and 93.3 percent of females are enrolled in primary school, and overall, 98.9 percent of the youth in Chile are literate. A very high number or 86.4 percent of Chilean adolescents are enrolled in secondary school, though the graduation rate is decreasing, which could be due to economic factors such as needing to support their family at an earlier age.
  9. Over the last decade, climate change has damaged the quality of water in the country. Glaciers have acted as the main source of water supply to rivers, lakes and groundwater in dry regions, and warmer weather has caused glaciers to retreat. There has also been a decrease in ecosystems in Chile which has a negative effect on the quality and availability of drinking water.
  10. Since Chile is located on a tectonic plate boundary where there is a subduction zone, compressional deformation causes earthquakes and volcanoes. Frequent earthquakes wreck thousands of homes every year and damage the country’s infrastructure. In recent years, the Chilean government has been working to build earthquake-resistant buildings and have developed better modes of public communication to warn people of natural disasters.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Chile show that compared to many other countries in Latin America, Chile is considered progressive in terms of technology, government, economics and living conditions. Countries such as Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador struggle in terms of overall living conditions due to corrupt governments and failing infrastructures. Chile is continuing to progress regardless of its hazardous geographical location and state of its surrounding countries.

– Sara Devoe
Photo: Flickr

women’s rights in Chile
President Michelle Bachelet of Chile leaves office in March 2018. During her two terms as president, Bachelet worked tirelessly to advance women’s rights in Chile. She leaves a legacy of legislative victories in the fight for gender equality.

Bachelet entered government as an advisor in the Health Ministry. She served as Chile’s first female health minister in 2002 and its first female defense minister in 2002. She became Chile’s president in 2006. Her victory depended on the support of women — Bachelet’s victory was the first time a majority of women in Chile supported a left-of-center presidential candidate.

 

Time in Office

During her first term as president, Bachelet championed legislation to further women’s rights in Chile. She passed protections for victims of domestic violence, fought workplace discrimination, reformed the pension system to be fairer to women, gave low-income mothers better access to childcare and introduced universal access to emergency contraception. 

Chile’s conservative governing coalition strongly opposed Bachelet’s plan to expand availability of emergency contraception. Bachelet avoided Congress by issuing executive orders to mandate that public clinics offer free emergency contraception. Her conservative congressional challengers won an appeal in the Constitutional Court, causing Bachelet to instead pursue legislative approval. The bill was popular with the public and supported through mass demonstrations against the court’s ruling. Bolstered by public approval, Bachelet fast-tracked the bill and it was approved in 2010. 

 

Between Presidencies

Bachelet left office in 2010, unable to run for a second consecutive term due to constitutional limitations. She became the first Executive Director of the newly created U.N. Women. As the head of the organization, Bachelet worked to realize U.N. Women’s agenda — ending violence against women, economically empowering women, including women in global peace and security planning, increasing the number of women in leadership positions and influencing countries to focus national policies and budgets on increasing gender equity.

 

Return to Politics

Bachelet then returned to politics, winning a second term as president of Chile in 2013. In her second term, Bachelet created the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality. She also passed legislation requiring that women make up 40 percent of candidates running for an elected office.

In 2017, the Constitutional Court of Chile ruled in favor of a reproductive rights bill introduced by Bachelet. The bill legalizes abortions in extreme cases — abortions were previously illegal in all instances. Bachelet’s bill was bolstered by public support — 70 percent of Chileans approved of the legislation.

 

A Strong Legacy and Continued Impact

After exiting office in March 2018, Bachelet will start as Board Chair of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health where she will continue to advocate for women’s rights in Chile.

“Promoting progress towards building a more equitable and just world, that guarantees the rights of women and girls, is more than a challenge,” says Bachelet. “It’s a necessity and an obligation.”

 – Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Protest and Potential Reform for the Chilean Pension System
In the past, pension analysts, the World Bank and political figureheads around the world, including George W. Bush, have praised the privatized Chilean pension system as one of the most effective in the world. However, many issues have arisen due to the system, and Chilean retirees are unable to sustain themselves due to small pensions. Many citizens are forced to work past retirement age in order to live at the most basic level.

Following protests from dissatisfied citizens and warnings from international organizations regarding the failing pension system, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet began to explore reform options in 2008. Under the current system, which was implemented in 1981 under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, workers must contribute 10% of their salaries into accounts operated by private businesses called pension fund administrators or AFPs.

The companies invest the money while employers and the government don’t make any contributions to the workers’ accounts. The funds are controlled by six AFPs and are equal to approximately 71% of Chile’s gross domestic product.

Recently, discontent among citizens has reached an all-time high as fewer and fewer people are capable of surviving solely off the money from the Chilean pension system. Although the invested money has helped to boost Chile’s economy in the past, the pension system is rather unreliable. If the stock market dips or the global markets stray from normal trends, workers lose savings and retirees receive smaller pension checks. Culturally, the Chilean economy is informal and people make inconsistent contributions to their pension accounts, which makes the situation even worse. Currently, the average pension check in Chile is $315, which is less than a monthly minimum wage salary.

Women also fare worse than men due to the fact that they typically earn less, are more likely to retire early and have a longer life expectancy than men. These factors, mixed with a general financial illiteracy among Chilean citizens, have led many people into desperate situations.

In 2008, President Bachelet introduced several pension reforms in an attempt to remedy the failings and move toward a mixed public-private system. She implemented a state-funded minimum pension amount of $140 for those who were unable to save for retirement. Close to 1.3 million Chileans receive this benefit today.

Now, further reforms such as a minimum required contribution from employers, the introduction of a state-run AFP with the hopes of creating competition and efforts to keep fund managers commissions on an equal playing field. Bachelet stated, “This increase in contributions will allow us to build the foundation for collective savings with solidarity. Part of it will enable raising current pensions and the other part will be used to ensure more equity in future pensions.”

As long as the Chilean pension system follows through with these reforms and takes care of their growing aging population, outside parties may still be able to look at Chile as having one of the most effective pension systems in the world.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

influential women
Female entrepreneurs, activists and politicians are making strides in overcoming global inequalities. These four influential women are presidents, CEOs and founders, garnering support for female empowerment around the world.

1. Michelle Bachelet was the first female president of Chile. After leaving the presidency, she became the first executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). In 2013, she was re-elected as president of Chile, winning by a landslide. During her terms, she targeted trade relations between South American nations and the Asia-Pacific.

2. Sonia Gandhi is the president of the Indian National Congress and the leader of the United Progressive Alliance, the ruling party in the lower house of India’s Parliament. Her high-ranking position wields great political influence. Gandhi’s humanitarian work has led her to be awarded The Lions Humanitarian Award in 2010.

3. Wendy Kopp is the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All. She founded Teach For America in 1989 “to build the movement to eliminate educational inequality by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.” Thanks to Kopp, more than 10,000 Teach For America corps members are teaching worldwide for two-year commitments.

4. Helene Gayle is the president and CEO of CARE USA, one of the nation’s leading international humanitarian organizations. CARE’s efforts reached 122 million in the past year in more than 80 countries. Gayle works to empower women and young girls through policy and advocacy efforts. Further, Gayle works with the Centers for Disease Control on HIV/AIDS, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues, and currently serves on the boards for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Rockefeller Foundation, Colgate-Palmolive Company, ONE, and the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Among this and a more extensive work history, Gayle’s work is enormous in addressing global inequalities.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Lions Club International, Teach For All, Forbes
Photo: Princeton Social

solar_energy
On June 6, 2014, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile inaugurated one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants constructed to date, the Amanecer Solar CAP plant. The solar farm stretches 250 acres across the Atacama Desert, resting on South America’s Pacific coast.

The PV plant, built by technology provider SunEdison, cost U.S. $250 million and was constructed over a period of six months. 310,000 solar panels take in solar radiation, converting the sunlight into clean energy capable of powering 125,000 Chilean households. Amanecer is able to generate close to 100 megawatts, making it the largest solar power plant in Latin America.

Jose Perez, regional President of SunEdison, declared that Amanecer “is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile.” Perez is happy to see Chile diversifying its energy matrix and reducing energy costs through the new PV project.

The Amanecer plant is good news for Chileans. The clean energy produced will be pumped into the country’s Central Interconnected System, which is expected to cause a drop in prices of grid electricity. Solar energy is also much more sustainable than other forms of energy. It is completely renewable. Estimates hold that the plant will introduce 270 GWh (gigawatt hours) of clean energy into Chile’s energy apparatus. The same energy output via diesel would demand 71 million liters of fuel.

The Amanecer Solar CAP project is part of a larger renewable energy strategy being pursued by the Bachelet administration. Currently Chile relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy, including gas, coal and oil, but Chile hopes that by 2025 at least 20 percent of its power will be generated by renewable energy sources. Bachelet’s short term goal is to see 45 percent of new power ventures being rooted in clean energy from 2014 to 2015. The Amanecer project alone has the potential to contribute 10 percent of Chile’s 2014 renewable energy goal.

The Atacama Desert provides a perfect environment for the development of solar energy ventures. In fact, Amanecer is not the only solar project in the area. It is joining the company of the existing 50.7 megawatt San José solar farm. Conditions in Chile are conducive to green energy development, and the government is doing well to embrace this reality. The benefits of investment in clean energy for Chile include lower energy prices, decreased financial burden on people living in poverty, and reduced pollution levels. Cleaner air and fuller pockets represent a policy everyone should feel excited about standing behind.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: BN AmericasEnergy Matters, Renews

Michelle_Bachelet_Gives_Inaugural_Address
Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated on March 11 at the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. This will be the second time Bachelet is sworn in as president after holding the office from 2006 to 2010. Bachelet, a moderate socialist, will be taking the reins from the current president, billionaire businessman Sebastian Piñera.

In a very symbolic ceremony, the head of the Chilean Senate, Isabel Allende, swore in Bachelet. The two female politicians share a past linked to the 1973 coup of the democratically elected Salvador Allende that carried dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. Bachelet is the daughter of an air force officer who was tortured by the Pinochet regime before dying in custody while Allende is the daughter of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide on the day of the coup.

During her inaugural address, Bachelet made inequality the focus of her speech. She said that although the policies of the Piñera administration had generated economic growth and jobs, Chile could and should be a fairer society.

Other solutions to fight inequality include changing the country’s education system by making it entirely state-funded within the next six years, a response to the student protests of 2011 to 2013 that occurred throughout Chile. Currently, the state funds a paltry percentage, leaving poor households to attend underfunded state universities. Bachelet plans to provide full state funding by increasing the corporate tax rate.

Despite promises to reduce inequality, Bachelet will face difficulty in implementing these proposals. Chile’s economy is slowing down from 5.6 percent growth per year in 2012 to just over 4 percent this past year. Moreover, prices of Chile’s primary product, copper, have fallen, which would dip the country’s economic growth even further.

Piñera leaves with a 50 percent approval rating, while at the end of her first term, Bachelet enjoyed an 84 percent approval rating.

Bachelet will not have any issue pushing her policies through the chambers of Congress, as her New Majority coalition enjoys a healthy majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Chileans will also be able to monitor her promises closely since the publishing of a list of 50 proposals she intends to complete within her first 100 days in office spread out across 14 different policy areas.

The widely popular Bachelet has promised to create a more egalitarian society through the promise of free education. Though she has come under fire from critics who say the Chilean economy is losing steam, she remains hopeful that her country can construct a more inclusive environment for its people.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: ABC News, Miami Herald, Slate, Economist
Photo: Khaleej Times

Education_Reform_in_Chile
As of next month, Chile will once again call Michelle Bachelet, leader of the popular Socialist Party, its president.

Although she left office with an 84 percent approval rate, Chilean law prohibits presidents from serving consecutive terms. However, in the four years since Bachelet left office, millions of citizens have openly protested for the return of many of her reforms — specifically demanded, are her reforms concerning education, environmental protection and income inequality.

Students are especially excited for Bachelet’s return. Her plan is to raise corporate taxes to 25 percent and use the money to fund the overhaul of secondary and higher education. This is the first step of what Bachelet hopes is a gradual move towards free public universities.

The influence of former president Augusto Pinochet, which ended central control and funding of public schools, left the education system in Chile diminished in quality skewed for the benefit of the elite. The majority of universities there today are private and expensive; and the country has not seen a new public university built in over 20 years.

Bachelet became the first female president of Chile in 2006; she served the traditional four-year term until 2010. She is often considered one of the most admired presidents in modern Chilean history, especially since the end of Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in 1990.

Many of the problems facing the Latin American country today are blamed on Pinochet’s abuse of power. Amongst other things, he is most criticized for ending land reform by selling off the nation’s water. This created a small pocket of economic elite and sparked the growing wealth distribution gap, which Bachelet has dedicated her career to fighting.

Education reform was central to the success of Bachelet’s last presidential term, and throughout her campaign she has vowed to continue it. Early in her first term, in April 2006, demonstrations of high school students broke out across the country, voicing frustrations with the quality and price of their education.

It became known as the “Penguin Revolution,” named for the black-and-white uniforms common among Chilean students.

Bachelet addressed this by immediately setting up an educational advisory committee. The committee, comprised of 81 advisory members from an array of political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds, functioned as a forum for the proposal of education bills.

Many of them were effective by August 2009 under the signing of the Education Reform Bill, which decentralized the system and created new regulatory government agencies.

When Bachelet’s term ended in 2010, students once again found themselves frustrated by their lack of representation within the education system and began protesting against current president Sebastián Piñera. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the streets of Santiago were filled nearly every Thursday with students demanding the reinstating of certain funding and other reforms for higher education.

She recently ran for office a second time, succeeding long-time political rival Evelyn Matthei. Now Bachelet and her education and economic reforms will return to office in March. Her popularity was proven on December 15, 2013 with reports of applause and tears accompanying her acceptance speech in Santiago.

Although the anticipation is high, there are also concerns regarding Chile’s immediate economic future and skepticism surrounding how Bachelet will handle it.

Chile’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, increasing by 5.6 percent last year.

However, there are fears that it will soon begin to slow, since much of its gross domestic product is tied to its primary export copper, which is at risk of declining prices in the global market. Many speculate that copper wealth will be Bachelet’s weapon for the underfunded public schools system, but if the copper market suffers, so will education.

Regardless, Bachelet is still followed by a reputation for charisma, intelligence and understanding of the common citizen. Her constituents widely agree that her future term as the president of Chile will be productive and positive.

As Paolo Bustamente, who admits to voting for Bachelet, said: “Abroad you often hear that this country has been growing and progressing more than others in Latin America, but it can’t just be a matter of growth. We need urgent educational reform, improvements to health and I feel Bachelet can fulfill promises of deep changes this time around.”

 – Stefanie Doucette

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyTimeForbesThe GuardianUnited Nations, CNN, Inter Press Service News Agency, MercoPress