United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Canada Award (2009)
Michaelle Jean is a Canadian stateswoman and journalist who served as the 27th governor general of Canada from 2005 to 2010. Currently she is the Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the first woman to hold the position. She has worked as a journalist, presenter and news anchor for the Canadian public broadcasting corporation for years and is also actively involved in charity works. A highly ambitious and brilliant woman, she has reached the pinnacles of professional success rising from very humble and difficult beginnings. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she immigrated to Canada as one of the thousands of refugees fleeing the dictatorial regime in her own land. The initial years in Canada were very difficult for her though she bravely faced the challenges to eventually establish herself as a successful reporter and broadcaster. As the product of an abusive home, she felt deeply for the female and young victims of domestic violence and played an active role in the establishment of a network of emergency shelters throughout Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. Progressing in her career through the years, she was appointed Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada in 2005 and in this position too she proved to be a very capable leader. Married to the filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, she has also appeared in some of his movies and documentaries.
- She was born on 6 September 1957 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Roger and Luce. Both her parents were teachers and her father worked as the principal for an elite Protestant private school in Port-au-Prince.The political situation in Haiti was very tense at that time and thus Michaelle was educated at home instead of being sent to school.Her father was abducted and brutally tortured by the henchmen of the President François Duvalier in 1965 and the family decided to leave the country for the sake of their safety.Her father went to Canada in 1967 while the rest of the family joined him after some time. They eventually settled in Quebec but the family’s problems were far from over. Roger became increasingly abusive and her parents separated.She attended the University of Montreal from where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian and Hispanic languages and literature. She completed her Master of Arts degree in comparative literature from the same university.She continued her studies in language and literature at the University of Perugia and the Catholic University of Milan.While still studying she became involved with a women’s shelter and coordinated a study on spousal abuse.Career
- She went to Haiti with a friend to conduct research on the island’s women. Her work caught the attention of a National Film Board producer who appointed her as a researcher and interviewer for a film on the 1987 Haitian elections, shown on ‘Le Point’, a news magazine program on Radio-Canada, the French language arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.She was eventually hired by Radio-Canada in 1988 as a reporter, filmmaker, and broadcaster, and worked on several of the network's programs, including ‘Actuel’, ‘Montréal ce soir’, and ‘Virages’.In 1995, she started working for the Réseau de l'information (RDI), Radio-Canada's all-news channel and anchored a number of programs like ‘Le Monde ce soir’, ‘l'Édition québécoise’, ‘Horizons francophones’, ‘Les Grands reportages’, and ‘Le Journal RDI’.She established herself as a very popular journalist over the next few years and was hosting her own show, ‘Michaëlle’ by 2004.On 27 September 2005, she became the 27th Governor General of Canada, succeeding Adrienne Clarkson to became the first black person to serve as governor general.Over the next couple of years she embarked on viceregal tours of Canada's provinces and territories. During these tours she met representatives of women's organizations and focused on the plight of battered women victims of domestic violence.In February 2009 she welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama to Canada on the first foreign visit of his presidency. The same year she kindled controversy when she ate a piece of heart from a seal that had just been gutted during a traditional Inuit seal feast.As the governor general she used her power to support human rights, promote Canada, and shed light on the country’s socio-economic problems. She stepped down from this post on 30 September 2010.She was named chairperson of the board of directors for the Institut Québécois des hautes études internationales (Québec Institute for International Studies) at Université Laval in October 2010. She also became UNESCO's special envoy to Haiti in November 2010.In November 2014 she was appointed secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (International Organisation of La Francophonie), becoming the first woman and the first Canadian to hold the position.Major Works
- During her term as Governor General of Canada, she focused strongly on the plight of female victims of violence.Awards & Achievements
- In 1995 she was presented with the Amnesty International Canada Journalism Award.She won the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Prix Gémeaux award in 2001 for Best Interview: All Categories.In 2009 she was awarded the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Canada Award for her outstanding contribution in advancing gender equality. The same year she also received the Board of Governors Recognition Achievement Award from the National Quality Institute for her contribution to the quality of life of Canadians, and humanity.Personal Life & Legacy
- She went to the Caribbean to work on a documentary about Martinique poet Aimé Césaire in 1991. There she fell in love with the film’s French-born Canadian director Jean-Daniel Lafond, and married him after some time. The couple has one adopted daughter, Marie-Eden.In 2011 the Universities Fighting World Hunger international network launched the Michaelle Jean Award to recognize students who have made a major contribution to combating hunger in an emergency relief situation.
See the events in life of Michaëlle Jean in Chronological Order
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