Bamako/Geneva/New York (UNDP) — In his tenth year as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), football Football legend Zidane superstar Zinédine Zidane is to visit the West African nation of Mali next week to highlight the country’s efforts to cut poverty.
“Today I want to help,” said Zidane, who retired from professional football in 2003 and is now Director of Sport for Real Madrid FC. “Ending poverty takes each and every one of us. I, too, lived in difficult places where we had very little.”
Zidane’s trip —which will include visits to women’s and youth empowerment projects, as well as income generating initiatives among some of Mali’s poorest populations— comes during the United Nations week which starts on Monday 17 October, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
He will meet women in Mali’s capital Bamako involved in a cooperative that makes shea butter products, as well as others who manage a multi-use engine that powers devices including a grinding mill and battery charger, reducing the amount of time local women spend on household chores.
He will also participate in a discussion with young people on the role they can play in community development, as well as make a visit to an environmental protection project that promotes sustainable farming techniques.
Poverty reduction is one of the actions on which Mali has made significant progress in recent years under the eight internationally-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that also include action against hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental degradation.
Primary school enrolment has risen from less than half to over 90 percent during the last decade, and more than 69 percent of Malians now has access to drinking water. Between 2001 and 2006, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate dropped from 1.7 to 1.3 percent. Despite these advances, challenges remain in the areas of nutrition, youth employment, sustainable development and maternal and child health.
“Zinédine Zidane’s visit to Mali is significant to draw attention to what is possible when different actors come together with a common goal,” said Maurice Dewulf, acting UNDP Resident Representative in Bamako. “It’s a global message of encouragement to all those who struggle daily against poverty.”
Zidane was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001. Together with fellow Goodwill Ambassador Ronaldo, in 2003, he launched the annual Match Against Poverty, which brings together other famous footballers to raise funds for anti-poverty projects worldwide.
More than US$3 million has been raised from eight matches, helping to support 27 projects in 24 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Zidane is currently preparing for the ninth match, on 13 December in Hamburg, Germany. Proceeds will go to Horn of Africa relief efforts.
Zidane and Ronaldo are part of an elite group of UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, which includes stars Iker Casillas, Didier Drogba and Marta Vieira da Silva, Japanese actress Misako Konno, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.