U.N. Women's chief: "When women make money, it helps everyone"

Women are making headlines worldwide - winning national elections and, in some developed countries, outpacing men as the breadwinners. But, in other countries, women can be forced to marry and are the objects of human trafficking networks. CBS News' Pamela Falks speaks with executive director of U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet to get a better understanding of women's varying roles in the world.

Varying roles of women in the world
CBS News' Pamela Falk speaks with executive director of U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet(pictured here) to get a better understanding of women's varying roles in the world.
(CBS News) U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet says women's rights have progressed -- but there is still the dark side of violence against women in many forms. Human trafficking is a global dilemma, she said, "the third largest world market behind weapons and the drug market."

And in the U.S., where women may be overtaking men in pay, Bachelet told CBS, "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."

"We know that," Bachelet said, "according to estimates of the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) that in the world we have so many places where women are the more important agricultural labor force, that if they are given the same access, not more, the same access to credit, to water, to technical support, access to markets, as men, the agricultural output of the country will rise between 2 and 4% and we can take out of hunger of 150 million people."

Bachelet knows a lot about being a woman in a man's world. She is a physician and she was minister of Health, in addition to being the Minister of Defense of Chile, before she was elected President of Chile, the first female President elected in her own right in Latin America. She and her family suffered during the Pinochet era, back in the 1970s, when her father died in prison and she and her mother were jailed and tortured by the military junta.

Watch CBS News' Pamela Falk interview U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet below:

And, she has seen how controversial issues related to women can be. As a pediatrician by profession, Bachelet (as President of Chile) liberalized contraception policy and had a firestorm on both sides of the issue.

But since coming to the U.N. as an Under Secretary-General and the Executive Director of the almost two-year old organization, UN Women, Bachelet has been globetrotting to extend women's rights around the world and appears to be well-received wherever she goes.

One of her top priorities is economic. "My top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push for women's economic empowerment and political participation." And to spike funding for her work, the organization is working with the private sector: 400 CEOs have signed on to the Women's Empowerment Principles and she raised $235 million in 2011, a 33% increase. During the past year, she has worked to empower rural women; launched of a global policy agenda to end violence against women; and expanded the role of women in peace talks, peace-building and recovery by training women in Africa and Asia to be mediators in conflict prevention. But she lamented earlier this month that, during this 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. this month, "We have come to an impasse."

Violence is also an issue that she confronts country by country. She told CBS, ""Still 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime."

Bachelet spent International Women's Day in Morocco because there was progress on many issues there related to women; but speaking about the case of Amina Filali who committed suicide, she said, "there is a law in Morocco if a man rapes or kidnaps a woman under 18 years old, he can avoid jail by marrying her." "We need to ensure that if somebody rapes somebody, this is a crime and needs to go to justice."

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' report discussed changing family life and marriage patterns in the U.S.

Bachelet talked about the changing role of women and the Time magazine report on salaries.

"We are not confronting the concept of what is masculine identity; in the past, many of those men were raised with the idea that to be a man was to be the food and money provider; in prehistoric times, what was important was the force and muscles, the strength; now, intelligence is as important."

"If men can reconcile themselves with a new vision that masculinity is much more than the economic side, they can also have more fun. I know it is a cultural change, and it will take time."

Her conclusions are upbeat: "My message to women is: Women: We can do it. We are capable of doing almost anything, but we must learn cannot do it all at once, we need to prioritize."

As one of the trailblazers of powerful women, she said that women's empowerment can be done, she said, her advice to young women: "never give up."

  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

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