Born in Santiago in 1951, Michelle and her family were living in Chile during the 1973 military coup and subsequent rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet. Her Air Force Brigadier father was arrested and following months of torture by Pinochet’s Secret Police, suffered a cardiac arrest that resulted in his death. In 1975 Michelle and her mother were also arrested and tortured for information.
Rescued from detention, they escaped to Australia to live in exile with her brother who had been living in Sydney for six years. Shortly after, she moved to East Germany for four years, studying medicine before eventually returning to Chile.
Taking on a career in politics after the fall of Pinochet’s dictatorship, Michelle Bachelet became the first woman to be president of Chile (2006-2010). She was popular for her government’s welfare policies and steady economic growth during her tenure.
After her first term, she became the inaugural executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During her three years leading UN women, Michelle worked to improve women’s health, protect women and girls from violence and make women’s empowerment a key aspect of UN work.
Returning to Chile, Michelle was again elected as president of Chile in 2014-2018.
After her term expired, she was appointed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, taking on the four year term at a difficult time for the UN human rights wing, with major humanitarian crises developing across the world.