15 JULY 2012


Dr. Michelle Bachelet may not realize how elated we all were at her designation as head of "U.N. Women." Here was a proven female leader taking over the leadership of an internationally-recognized cause to accomplish long-overdue progress.

Even when we heard about bureaucratic obstacles, raised mainly by beneficiaries of the old fragmented structure for women, we thought she would easily handle it with her formidable experience as Chile's successful President and her solid background in the fight for human dignity, including -- of course -- her own.

She was the best thing that happened to women, we felt, and to the U.N.

Yet with growing disappointment, we noted that time was passing by while Ms. Bachelet was still pondering her options. When the first, then second, International Women's Day on 8 March went almost unnoticed at the U.N. except for the obligatory statements, we still hoped that she was preparing for solid substantial moves. When a negligible amount of money was raised for the Grand venture, we were told to hold our horses. Big time was in the making.

Not that she was invisible. We spotted her at Shakira's Madison Square Garden concert and thought it was an excellent signal; she could enjoy herself, like all of us, and perhaps recruit the number one Latina artist to the immediate cause. We started seeing her at varied gatherings and hearing of her travels almost anywhere, from a fringe seminar in Beirut to a recent summit in Rio. Still, nothing; nada.

About a month ago, while attending a gathering at U.N. Headquarters, we noted a listing of an "executive meeting" on "U.N. Women." Out of support -- and curiosity -- we looked in. Half an hour after its scheduled start time, there was hardly anyone there; certainly not Ms. Bachelet. When we walked around to check with the conference officer, she waved us away as she was openly arranging her evening's appointment. There were a couple of lonely junior officials at the podium waiting for Godot, a full fledge delegation from Finland, and about five Latina delegates in the back row chatting about a possible draft.

We called Ms. Bachelet's office seeking information. Her secretary referred us to the website. When we sought specific answers, she suggested calling "Nanette Brown." Although the name did not sound familiar -- as we happen to know most media-related colleagues -- we telephoned a presumed cell phone that -- at least at the time -- did not respond.

Now we still have the highest regard for Ms. Bachelet. Her accomplishments before joining the U.N. could not be taken away by anyone. Her proven talents could not be overlooked. The cause to which she is assigned is not only undeniable, but is a crucial one to women, to the U.N., and most important, for the quality of life on our planet. We would ardently wish to support her. But -- like many others -- we wonder what is going on!

Feeling really sad and truly disappointed, we happened to see a male colleague from Chile and asked him what he thought. He valiantly tried to put a "belle figure" on it by hinting that maybe she was being careful not to outshine the Secretary General! That sounded odd. She may have been a potential candidate before a second term was voted for Ban ki-Moon. But now it is like apples and oranges, unless she's biding her time after four long years. By then, it will be too late and we might as well go wait for her in our favourite Vina del Mar.