A simple formula
When Geraldine Laybourne, then CEO and Founder of Oxygen Media, found that her busy schedule could not accommodate meetings with the dozens of young women eager to seek her guidance, she found an innovative way to pay it forward. Laybourne began inviting these women on her daily walks. Soon, she was scheduling young women each day to walk with her. Seeing the power and success of this simple formula, she organized Mentoring Walks in key U.S. cities to highlight the importance of mentoring and provide access to successful women in the U.S. Today, women leaders across the world model Laybourne’s creative approach to mentorship through Vital Voices’ signature event – the Global Mentoring Walks.
A global movement
This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, over 100 members of the Global Leadership Network led 126 Global Mentoring Walks in 60 countries. Through their efforts, nearly 13,000 participants worldwide came together across cultures, generations, religions, countries, and identities to pay it forward through mentorship.
From metropolitan Lagos and coastal Miami Beach, to the Fiji Islands and Rio de Janeiro, Mentoring Walk Flag Bearers have shaped a movement to empower the next generation of women leaders that is truly global. Brigitte Dzogbenuku coordinated the 9th annual Mentoring Walk in Accra, Ghana. First-time Flag Bearers Ann Christine Sewanyana and Victoria Sekitoleko led a walk in Jinja, Uganda with an astounding 650 participants. Meanwhile, the Vital Voices chapter in Argentina hosted nine walks across the country, and Maria Gabriela Hoch, the Co-Founder and Honorary President of Vital Voices Argentina, organized another successful walk in Miami, Florida.
Across the globe, Mentoring Walks drew attention from prominent leaders. US Embassy representatives sponsored several Mentoring Walks in Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, Costa Rica, and South Africa. Baroness Mary Goudie from the British House of Lords attendedMentoring Walk in London. First Lady Martine Moïse made an appearance at the Mentoring Walk in Haiti. And countless women leaders in business, technology, consulting, media, diplomacy, and more served as speakers and mentors at walks around the world.
A real impact
The impact of the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walks begins locally. Vital Voices Global Leadership Network members that served as Flag Bearers for the Mentoring Walks organized, fundraised, and tailored each walk to address critical challenges facing women and girls in their local communities.
In Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Flag Bearer Olena Galushko organized her walk around resource efficiency and green management. Mentoring Walk participants wore green to show their support for greater environmental sustainability. In South Africa, Flag Bearers Rehema Isa and Hema Vallabh combined forces to lead a walk in Pretoria entitled “Her Story, Your Story, Shared Stories,” focused on using the art of storytelling to elevate female leaders. In Mexico City, Flag Bearer Luz Maria de la Mora convened mentors and mentees to promote women’s leadership in tech. In Pakistan, the Sujag Theater Group performed at a Mentoring Walk in Johi to raise awareness about the dangers of child marriage.
A future that’s female
The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap will not close entirely until 2186 – too long to wait for millions of women and girls worldwide. Challenging the status quo requires bold, pragmatic action and purposeful collaboration. The Global Mentoring Walks are part of this movement, and respond to the International Women’s Day call to #BeBoldForChange. As they grow each year, the Global Mentoring Walks provide established women leaders a platform to activate the potential of a new generation of change-making, boundary-pushing women and girls, enabling them to create a better world for us all.
Meredith Forsyth – Intern, Innovation & Strategic Investments