I was not born in a home where there were stereotypes. So that was very useful because it gave me the sense of possibilities, of flying, if I may say, of making my hopes and dreams a reality.
When women earn the money for the family, everyone in the family benefits. We also know that when women have an income, everyone wins because women dedicate 90% of the income to health, education, to food security, to the children, to the family, or to the community, so when women have an income, everybody wins.
One of the factors a country's economy depends on is human capital. If you don't provide women with adequate access to healthcare, education and employment, you lose at least half of your potential. So, gender equality and women's empowerment bring huge economic benefits.
The 2010 global gender gap report by the World Economic Forum shows that countries with better gender equality have faster-growing, more competitive economies.
Educational equality doesn't guarantee equality on the labor market. Even the most developed countries are not gender-equal. There are still glass ceilings and 'leaky pipelines' that prevent women from getting ahead in the workplace.
U.N. Women was created due to the acknowledgement that gender equality and women's empowerment was still, despite progress, far from what it should be. Transforming political will and decisions, such as the Member States creating U.N. Women, into concrete steps towards gender equality and women's empowerment, I think is one of the main challenges.
There's full consensus in the military that women shouldn't be in person-to-person combat. I don't know if we have enough experience to know whether this is the right approach. But women can be elsewhere. We have mandatory military service in Chile. I pushed for women in all areas.
My father respected and admired my mother and was a person who was always standing by my side, encouraging me to do more and believed in my capacity. So in that sense, my own experience was very good in becoming an empowered woman. From early on, I carried that strong message: 'You can do it.' So I never had any doubt that women can do a lot.
There is no city or country in the world where women and girls live free of the fear of violence. No leader can claim: 'this is not happening in my backyard.'
We simply can no longer afford to deny the full potential of one half of the population. The world needs to tap into the talent and wisdom of women. Whether the issue is food security, economic recovery, health, or peace and security, the participation of women is needed now more than ever.
As a doctor, when I was minister of health and would go somewhere, little girls would come up to me and say, 'I want to be like you one day, I want to be a doctor.' Now, they tell me, 'I want to be president just like you.' All of us can dream as big as we want.
Given political history in Chile, it seemed to me that there was a critical task of consolidating a democracy and creating healthy civic-military and political-military relationships.
People see I am a mother and head of a household. Today in Chile, one-third of households are run by women. They wake up, take the children to school, go to work. To them I am hope.
As a vibrant force in civil society, women continue to press for their rights, equal participation in decision-making, and the upholding of the principles of the revolution by the highest levels of leadership in Egypt.
Women's strength, women's industry, women's wisdom are humankind's greatest untapped resource. The challenge then for U.N. Women is to show our diverse constituencies how this resource can be effectively tapped in ways that benefit us all.