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Participants at the VVLead South-South Exchange Uganda: Maria Merola, Argentina – Asmau Leo, Nigeria – Neema Namadamu, DRC – Beatrice Achieng, Uganda

We haven’t begun the official program agenda, but already the Speke Resort in Kampala, Uganda is buzzing with energy! Today, 50 extraordinary women leaders from 24 countries across the globe arrived for the VVLeadFellowship’s first annual South-South Exchange Program, this year taking place on the picturesque shores of Lake Victoria. 

Since its inception in early 2013, VVLead Fellows have interacted, almost exclusively, on the program’s virtual learning environment – or online platform. As a result, most Fellows know each other only by name through online interactions during course webinars, discussion forums, Facebook messages and virtual mentorships. Despite this, during the opening dinner this evening, passersby could have easily mistaken the interactions as those between old friends, colleagues and even family. From the moment the women began arriving to the dinner, Fellows from as far as Myanmar, South Africa and Argentina were embracing each other, laughing and before we knew it, dancing to the beats of world music. The energy is infectious, and will surely propel this esteemed group of change agents through the upcoming week of intensive programming. 

Over the next four days, the VVLead Fellows will gather to exchange ideas, resources and best practices from their innovative models striving to enhance safety and security and improve the rights and economic and social wellbeing of women and girls in their respective communities. Fellows include women leaders who are tackling issues related to economic disparities, violence against women and harmful cultural practices – with particular focus on forced/early marriage. They work in a variety of fields including business, non-profit/non-governmental organizations, public office/government (elected or appointed), advocacy initiatives and community-based organizations.

As our Fellows well know, the three core pillars of the VVLead Fellowship Program are Connect, Learn and Collaborate. With an understanding of VVLead’s unique opportunity for blended learning and networking – both online and in-person – all of our virtual program offerings have tied back to one or more of these pillars. Building on this methodology, each upcoming day of programming will be centered on one of these pillars with trainings and working sessions directly tied to the day’s theme. The program will consist of peer- and Vital Voices-led trainings, facilitated dialogue, information and resource exchanges. The technical trainings and working groups throughout the week will focus on topics ranging from advocacy training, public speaking, networking, best practices for strategic planning, facilitation for team empowerment and an innovative training on audio storytelling.

This week is the largest opportunity that Fellows have had to connect in-person and for the majority of them, this will be the first time that they will experience the enriching power of taking these pillars from the platform and bringing them to life!

Learn more about the VVLead Fellowship Program.