A month after taking office as the Ambassador of Sweden in Mozambique, Ambassador Mette Sunnergren talks to us about her career, her passion for girls and women´s rights and her perspective on the historical relations between Mozambique and Sweden. Read the full interview below.
A month ago you took on the role of Swedish Ambassador to Mozambique, what are your first impressions of Maputo and the Embassy?
Maputo is a very charming city! I still don't know the city well, but just being at the seaside gives me a feeling of openness to the world. I see a multitude of water and potential and I like that combination. I also appreciate the local cuisine. I have already tasted some dishes, the shrimp which is very well known, I also liked the dishes made with Mozambican beans.
As for the Embassy team, I think it is a very interesting and experienced group. Everyone has great stories to tell and a lot of knowledge in their area of competence. I am very impressed with this! It is a pity that we cannot all be together at the Embassy due to the coronavirus, but I am very much looking forward to having a normal working day at the Embassy when we all return to our jobs and it is possible to get together for a Swedish fika. I am optimistic and eager to start working with all colleagues from the Embassy.
Tell us more about yourself.
I started my professional career in Swedish civil society, where I worked with issues of peace, conflict and development in Latin America. I worked for almost 8 years in three different countries in Latin America.
I also worked with civil society in Sweden, then became a civil servant when I joined the Swedish International Development Agency in 2006. From there I moved to Afghanistan and then to the Democratic Republic of Congo where I led the cooperation team and I was appointed to my first term as Ambassador of Sweden. This is my third term as Ambassador because after having worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo I was also named Ambassador to Sudan, where I worked for 3 years. Most recently, I worked in Zimbabwe as Head of Cooperation at the Swedish Embassy in Harare.
I consider myself a person who goes a little where fate takes me, but I also follow what I find interesting. I like to make a difference and I think this has been possible thanks to the job opportunities I had during my professional career.
In my spare time, I like to play tennis, read books, socialize, travel and discover new places.
What are the issues that most interest you?
One of the issues that interests me most, among many others, is peace and the participation of women in peace processes, the rights of girls and women with regard to health and sexual and reproductive rights, gender-based violence and everything that concerns girls, but I am also interested in the education and health care of boys or children in general.
During your professional career, you worked in some countries in conflict. Is there a specific reason for this?
We have to be humble and recognize that there are many actors and experts in all peace processes, but still, I believe that Sweden has an important role to play in these processes and our feminist foreign policy is an important tool that allows us to be a good partner and ensure that women are active actors in the peace process. I believe I was able to achieve this in these situations.
Sweden and Mozambique celebrate 45 years of bilateral relations this year. How do you foresee these relations being further strengthened?
I hope that Mozambique does not need Swedish development cooperation for another 45 years, but I think that, at least for a few more years, we will continue to be a good partner for Mozambique in terms of development cooperation. During our long history of collaboration with Mozambique, Sweden has always been present and is a solid and reliable partner country. I believe that our relationships have the possibility of strengthening even more and that we can continue what we have learned over the years of cooperation.
Describe the relationship between Mozambique and Sweden in three words.
The words that come to mind immediately are long, good and strong.
The Ambassador recently started Portuguese classes, is there a word or expression that you have had difficulty in pronouncing?
I am still at the beginner level but I have given my best and I hope to get there little by little. I have been having difficulties in pronouncing some words that I consider to be quite interesting and important and with which we intend to work, comply and strengthen. One of them is the word "institutions" which I believe is something that should be strengthened in this society and the other is "constitution", an important part of the rules of engagement which is to respect the constitution.
Welcome to Mozambique Ambassador Mette!