Queen Mathilde, a royal voice for children

Since 2002, first as a Princess and later as the Queen of the Belgians, Her Majesty Queen Mathilde is committed to children’s rights

In 2005 the Queen travelled as a UN emissary for the International Year of Microcredit. In that same year, she was appointed UNICEF/UNAIDS special representative for their world campaign for orphans and other vulnerable children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS.

In 2009 she became Honorary President of UNICEF Belgium. In that context, Her Majesty the Queen regularly supports UNICEF activities in Belgium by her presence:
in schools, at governments and at international conferences. On these occasions she stresses the importance of giving a voice to the most excluded children and seizes every opportunity for an inspired plea in favor of children’s rights. On numerous occasions, the Queen referred to the importance of valuing the role of young people as a prerequisite for success.

As an international advocate for UNICEF’s global youth agenda (launched in 2018) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the United Nations in 2015, Queen Mathilde is the ideal person to translate UNICEF’s priorities to the general public

Queen Mathilde also takes up her role as UNICEF Belgium’s Honorary President abroad and travels regularly to “the field”. Over the past 10 years she witnessed
UNICEF activities in Niger, Tanzania, Senegal, Liberia, Haiti, Ethiopia and Laos.

This year, in June 2019, the Queen of the Belgians travelled to Kenya. During the three-day visit, the delegation went to the Kakuma refugee camp (one of the largest camps in the region), visited various educational projects in Nairobi County and the Masai community and witnessed the awareness campaigns carried out by UNICEF and its partners on sensitive topics such as education for girls and the fight against genital mutilation and child marriages. During the mission — at the specific request of the
Queen — priority was given to interaction with the local communities and the children.

Highlight of this mission was the presence of HRH Princess Elisabeth. The participation of the Crown Princess was a particularly pleasant surprise for all participants and gave the mission a unique character. The principle of youth participation and attention to the voice of young people proposed by UNICEF could not be better illustrated.

During the mission, Queen Mathilde and Princess Elisabeth were introduced to the various activities and projects that UNICEF sets up together with the local authorities and many partners to ensure access to good quality education for young adolescents. The delegation also got a better view on initiatives aimed at protecting vulnerable children in the country. The interactions with the local communities were very cordial and illustrative of the achievements and challenges of protecting and promoting the rights of children in the country.

As Queen Mathilde rightly stated at the end of the mission: “Education remains the most important means to give young people, and especially girls, the opportunity to
build their lives and make their own choices”.

Philippe Henon, spokesperson UNICEF Belgium

All pictures: UNICEF/Frank Dejongh