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Close to her heart

Elke Büdenbender is the patron of Unicef Germany – a position traditionally held by the partner of the Federal President.

Elke Büdenbender, patron of Unicef Germany
Elke Büdenbender, patron of Unicef Germany © picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild

There are 8,000 people working in Germany on a voluntary and honorary basis for Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund. The similarly unpaid position as patron of Unicef in Germany is traditionally held by the partner of the Federal President. Elke Büdenbender entered this role in 2017.

“Being the patron of Unicef is something very close to my heart.”
Elke Büdenbender

Elke Büdenbender originally trained as an industrial clerk, later took the high school graduation exams and then studied law in Giessen. She started work as a judge at the Administrative Court in Hanover in 1994, and continued at the Administrative Court in Berlin from 2000 to 2017.

“I value the important work of Unicef, and I recognize the dedication especially of the many voluntary supporters working throughout the world for the protection of children and the defence of their rights. Experiences, such as war and flight from crisis situations, shake the fundamental trust and confidence of the affected children. I am happy to be able to make my contribution for the good of these children.”
Elke Büdenbender

Elke Büdenbender has been married to Frank-Walter Steinmeier since 1995. They have a daughter. In 2017 the SPD politician and former foreign minister was elected as the new Federal President of Germany. Elke Büdenbender has taken leave of absence from her position as judge for as long as her husband remains president.

“Sustainable development, to which Germany has also pledged its support as a member of the international community, is inconceivable without children’s rights.”
Elke Büdenbender

The tradition of becoming patron of Unicef as the partner of Germany’s head of state dates back to Wilhelmine Lübke, the wife of former Federal President Heinrich Lübke. She was a school teacher and stood up for vulnerable people throughout her life. Even in her very old age she helped out in a children’s hospital: “When you take care of other people, you have no time to be old.”


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