Princess Mathilde's Mission to Mali: February 20-23, 2005

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Great photos and thanks for the translations. An important mission for Mathilde and the people of Mali.
There were various interviews with her in Mali, this one comes from "La Province" (24/02/2005)

"Mathilde: "I adore Africa""

The princess will remember the warmth of the people of Mali, the dignity and courage of the women.

Yesterday Mathilde ended her mission in Mali. Before taking the plane to Brussels she agreed to give us an interview.

>Which memories will you keep from this travel?

M: "The very warm welcome of the people. I felt a lot of humanity. I visited very interesting projects. I will keep an excellent memory of this visit to Mali. It certainly won't be the last time I've been here."

>Are you thinking of coming back with prince Philippe?

M: "Yes. I'll come back with him to show him this country that's touched me deeply."

>What surprised you most here in Mali?

M: "I was able to talk very openly with the president of Mlai about the condition of women in his country, about genital mutilations that he's trying to stop. And what especially touched me is the problem of the education. An educated woman with children has more chances. She can more easily bring up her own children, who will be living in in more favorable conditions when it comes to their health care. And also, when it comes to microcredit, the women I met and who made me realize how much their lives have changed because of it, this project brings hope."

>What has the contact with the women of Mali tought you?

M: " They have a lot of dignity. With an incredibale courage they fulfill the masses of very important work that still have to be done during the day: They have to walk for miles to get water, wood etc. Very impressive."

>You were very well prepared before you left for Mali. Is their something here that still was a real discovery?

M: "Yes: the human warmth, the contact with people. For instance, Ousmane Sy, who will receive the prize of the King Baudouin Fund. He does great efforts for his country. His fight against poverty is a miracle. I learnt so much by meeting people, and what particularly struck me was the very relaxed way of life people have here. It's very communicatif."

>Can you compare this trip with the one you made to Niger last year?

M: "I can't compare it because each country has its own caracteristics. I keep a unique memory of Niger. It are two poor countries that are doing everything they can to get out of their difficult situation. The Belgian cooperation helps a great deal. For instance the projects we visited yesterday: building a well in a village changes people's lives radically."

>Are you thinking making a next trip to Africa?

M: "It's too early to tell. But I adore Africa..."

>Once you're back in Belgium, you will no doubt be telling your children about this mission?

M: "Of course, in simple words. I will show them the objects I received, and through that, I will try to explain them the mission. My daughter is 3 years old so she knows where I am. But my little boy is 1,5 years old and it will no doubt be harder to explain him.

> What's your favorite gift among the ones you received?

M: "I really can't chose, every gift was one from the heart."

>Last year, in Niger, you received a horse...

M: "Yes, that didn't happen this year. Luckily, I would say, because if we would heve taken it home, we would have to leave all our lugage behind..."
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Thanks for the interview (and the many great pictures before, too!) Catherine! :)

The interview from La Province was very insightful. Mathilde obviously really talked, listened and learned from the people of Mali. I'm also really impressed that she address such difficult and sometimes controversial issues as genital mutilation -- and with the President of Mali no less.

The last comment about leaving the luggage behind if they had gotten another horse was hilarious! A wry sense of humour from Mathilde, too!
Here are the photos that Corbis has from the trip:


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More from Corbis. Some funny expressions by Mathilde in a few of these:


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Final batch from Corbis.


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More photos from


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and the last ones...


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What we didn't know yet at the time of this humanitarian mission, is that Mathilde was already pregnant...actually you can tell if you look at the photos.

After her third child is born, Mathilde will be going on more of these fieldwork-missions, since she has been appointed as a special Unaids ambassador. Also on this mission she gave atention to mothers and children suffering from the terrible disease.
Translation of her speech

Madame Minister,
Misters Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

According to ancient popular sayings in Mali "He who takes care of someone else's child, spares his own descent from harm".
The protection and education of children has a place right in the heart of the culture of Mali, a country of which I'm discovering the values : most of all dignity, generosity and hospitality.

Education is a priority of the cooperation between Mali and Belgium.
Education lies in the heart of human development and is a crucial element in fighting poverty.

That's why I'm very happy to be able to lay the first stone of the Professional Institute of Bankass today.

The laying of a first stone is a moving moment because it announces hope and future.

Every child has the right to receive a basic education of good quality.
Various times I have emphasized my personal interest in this topic during this visit to Mali.

I would like to seize this opportunity to express my admiration for the positive action of this country and the considerable progress that education has made here.

Of course, these good results mustn't make us blind for the persistence of the gap that still exists between different regions in Mali and the very big difference in education for boys and girls. I give extra special attention to education for girls. Because once they're grown up, an educated girl will contribute to society, to development and to the well being of her own children, her family and her community.

Belgium contributes to the decade program of education, both in fundamental education as in professional and technical education.

It's this kind of formation that the Professional Institute of Bankass will offer. I'm thrilled that Mali wants to offer the posibilty of access to the same kinds of schooling to pupils from the inland, as to those who live in the big cities.

The Profesional Institute will insure formations that will lead to jobs, in function of the local economy.
By teaching matters like agriculture and leather-making, this institute could become a motor of economic development in this part of the country.

I would like to make the wish that this Institute opens new perspectives to the entire population of the Bankass region, and most of all to young girls.

I thank you for your warm welcome and I wish this schoolproject all the very best.
Hannelore said:
What we didn't know yet at the time of this humanitarian mission, is that Mathilde was already pregnant...actually you can tell if you look at the photos.

After her third child is born, Mathilde will be going on more of these fieldwork-missions, since she has been appointed as a special Unaids ambassador. Also on this mission she gave atention to mothers and children suffering from the terrible disease.

You must have really good eyes Hannelore, because I can't really tell she's pregnant - well either that or I just need to clean my glasses ;):).

I think it's wonderful she's been appointed as a special Unaids ambassador, because she's so dedicated to the causes she represents. I look forward to seeing her on her missions in the future.

Hannelore thank you for translating the speech, and Cathérine thank you for the pictures :):).
Well done, Hannelore. Maybe the Police Fédérale should use you to help them out. And thanks for the translation. Merci, Cathérine, as always for the photos.
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