Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

UK's Duchess of York hopes to collaborate with Saudi Arabia on child health care

Sarah Ferguson attended the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The duchess addressed the Misk Global Forum on Wednesday. Misk
The duchess addressed the Misk Global Forum on Wednesday. Misk

The UK’s Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, wants to collaborate with Saudi Arabia to set up primary care facilities for children in the Kingdom.

Speaking to The National on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday, the duchess said that she is setting up talks with ministers to help support care for young people in the hardest to reach areas of the country.

A keen horse rider, the duchess added that she hopes to take to the road in order to find out what care people most need.

"I love this visual of riding into a small town on a horse, sort of Buffalo Bill comes to town, and then I get off my horse, as a humble way of transportation, and say how can I help?” she said, adding that she doesn’t make empty promises.

“I don’t know if you remember Mary Poppins, she says ‘we mustn’t make pie crust promises - easily made and easily broken.’ I can’t make a comment if I can’t back it up,” she said.

The duchess chose to help the country as 70 per cent of the population is under 35, with the “joy, enthusiasm, self-determination and humour” of young people important to her.

“I don’t like grown-ups …. They don’t understand me. They don’t want to listen to understand me. So I don’t want to be with them then because they want to make me something I’m not,” she said.

Saudi Arabia launched a series of health campaigns this year aimed at cutting diabetes and high blood pressure rates, with more than 40 per cent of its citizens found to be obese.

Ms Ferguson, who was referred to as “Sarah of Arabia” on Tuesday during a talk about her philanthropic work, spent 10 years working as a spokesperson for weight-loss brand Weight Watchers in the US, championing the importance of exercise and a good diet.

She is planning to work with a major healthcare company in the UAE to continue her work with obesity and diabetes, and hopes to bring knowledge gained from the experience to Saudi Arabia.

“I was a comfort eater, that’s why I worked for Weight Watchers,” she said, adding later that “we haven’t got time not to get these primary care units up”.

The annual Misk Global Forum is run by the Misk Foundation, a youth development fund set up by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this year focuses on future skills, AI and social intelligence. Ms Ferguson thanked the Crown Prince and forum for asking her to take part.

The duchess spoke at the event on Tuesday about the concept of the philantropreneur, an idea that she applies to her work with the Sarah’s Trust and that refers to the use of philanthropy to empower people towards entrepreneurship.

The Key to Freedom initiative, set up by the duchess and her daughter, Princess Eugene, helps vulnerable women from India who have suffered sex trafficking or domestic violence to produce ethical fashion that is then sold in high street stores, such as Topshop. They produce silk-printed scarves and bag that cost around £30.

“We named it that because the more she works overnight, the bigger the roof she can build for herself,” said the duchess.

“100 per cent of the work under my foundation goes to the child [or young person]. Which other person can say 100 per cent?”

Updated: November 13, 2019 08:36 PM

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