Football legend Zinédine Zidane ends Mali visit with anti-poverty call
Bamako — Football superstar and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador Zinédine Zidane ended a visit to Mali last Friday highlighting new anti-poverty tools put into action across the West African nation.
Zidane visited a group of women who manage a multi-purpose engine that provides the village of Koursalé, 60 kilometres southwest of the capital, Bamako, with an affordable power supply for milling grain, processing rice, and recharging batteries.
“I’ve been able to see for myself how these simple machines can make women’s everyday lives easier, and generate economic and social development that benefits everyone in the community,” said Zidane who also visited a UNDP-supported women-run shea butter factory, and met with students from a school in neighbouring Bancoumana.
“It would be fantastic if every village in Mali could have one of these machines,” he said, noting that more than one thousand villages in Mali are equipped with this technology, reducing the amount of time local women spend on household chores.
The programme has so far reached about 1.5 million people in Mali and approximately three million in West Africa now have better energy access through the engines, some of which now run on biofuels such as the Jatropha vegetable oil.
It focuses on women with low income and minimal access to energy. Only registered women’s associations, with support of village members, can apply for a unit. Once trained, they save an average of between two and six hours daily using the technology.
Improving access to energy for some of the world’s poorest populations is one plank of UNDP’s poverty reduction strategy, which involves supporting governments in drawing up and putting into action policies that break poverty cycles and create opportunities for women.
In Bamako, Zidane also participated in a sports event with 3,000 youth as part of advocacy efforts for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight internationally-agreed goals that seek to end extreme poverty by 2015.
UNDP acting Resident Representative Maurice Dewulf hailed Zidane as a “valuable Ambassador who has teamed up with 13 million Malians with a view to achieving the MDGs.”
Prior to his departure, Zidane met with Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré, who acknowledged the football star’s commitment to advocating against poverty.
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