By Marcy Driehaus
Something momentous occurred in Brazil in the year 2011. No, it wasn’t Festa Junina or the Parintins Folklore Festival, but rather the election of the country’s first ever female president, Dilma Rousseff.
The future leader was born in Belo Horizonte on December 14, 1947. Though now Rousseff is at comfortably at the peak of her political power, it wasn’t an easy journey to the top.
Rousseff’s involvement in the political sphere included a practice of militant socialist politics. That ultimately led to her rebellion against military dictatorship in Brazil. This battle, though logical and for the most part civilized, got her thrown in prison in 1970 with a six year sentence and 18 years without political rights. She underwent torturous events throughout the time of her imprisonment such as electric shock. The inhumanity she was faced with during this time didn’t lessen her will to change things, but rather intensified her longing to do so.
After her sentence was shortened and she was released from prison in 1974, Rousseff headed to Porto Alegre (the largest city in Rio Grande do Sul) where she continued to study economics. She also got involved with local politics by becoming an active member in the Democratic Labor Party.
In 2001 Rousseff switched political parties and became a proud member of the Worker’s Party, led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Luiz Inacio Lula, more commonly known as Lula, was elected president in January of 2003. During his time in office, Lula saw great potential in Rousseff, which was evident when he chose to elected her to his cabinet as Minister of Energy. Her success in this position must have impressed Lula, leading him to appoint her as his Chief of Staff in 2005.
In 2009, while still working under President Lula, Rousseff faced and overcame another barrier when she was diagnosed with and beat Lymphoma. However, this bump in the road didn’t slow her down. Her journey had only just begun.
Having been successful in her work for President Lula, Rousseff decided it was time to take things into her own hands and ran for president in 2010. Clearly the people of Brazil saw the same potential in her that Lula had been nourishing for years and elected her as their president. Inaugurated in January of 2011, Dilma Rousseff became Brazil’s first female president.
While in office, Rousseff has made it her priority to both mend and improve Brazil’s educational system and to maintain a good and stable relationship with the United States. Her administration’s efforts have also been wildly successful in terms of the economy which now ranks as the sixth largest economy in the world. Rousseff has proven herself as someone who takes her position very seriously and shouldn’t be doubted. She’s made it a point that dishonor or wrongdoing exhibited by a minister is intolerable and is punishable by dismissal. Rousseff has exercised this notion already by firing those who have been faced with allegations of corruption. Her sternness and determination to preserve her country’s dignity and honorability is admirable and inspiring.
In light of her success in her presidency, Rousseff serves as a motivator for women everywhere. She has made it a point emphasize that she hopes that, “fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say ‘yes, women can’.” It’s clear through Rousseff’s hard work and success that women are indeed capable of anything.