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For the second time Uganda joined other nine countries around the world to participate in the Mentoring Walk on November 20, 2010. I must proudly add that we have achieved the objectives of raising awareness about Mentoring as a key tool for personal, professional and business development, brought together women professionals and emerging women in mentoring partnerships, created a network of role models and spotlighted the accomplishments of women in Uganda.

This year, the mentoring walk brought together over 250 girls and women from various walks of life including secondary schools, tertiary institutions, corporate companies, public and private institutions, non government organizations, community groups and women entrepreneurs.

As participants walked from Centenary Park to Nakasero Primary School, the women and girls guided and shared their experiences – the “Grass to Grace Experiences, which so often motivate the feeble hearts of the aspiring women. We have seen the space grow beyond just the walks to a platform where old, young, experienced, non-experienced girls and women mentor and support each other.

Some of the accomplishments highlighted since last year’s Mentoring Walk were: Rehmah Kasule’s participation in the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship where she shook hands with President Barack Obama, Jalia Nabukalu attending the Youth Leadership Summit in Washington DC, Ninah Tolyewo joining a Medical school in Canada with full sponsorship by Geraldine Laybourne and Grace Nanyonga attending the Fortune/US State Department Mentoring program.

Locally, a number of women shared how they have built strong mentoring partnerships with young mentees. Entrepreneurship mentoring is in full swing in universities around the country and a number of Mentoring Clubs have been established in Uganda and four clubs in Rwanda. Other exciting programs where girls and women are engaged are: the Rising Star Mentoring Program in 8 girls’ secondary schools around the country and the monthly Mentoring Nights for the women in employment.

As quoted by our Guest of Honour, Dr.Hilda Tadria, “Mentoring should not be looked at as a responsibility but rather as an opportunity to serve and grow,” and emphasized the importance of grooming women in leadership right from an early age. Among the many speakers was the Head of Marketing at Crown Beverages, Aggie Konde who shared her experience on being a female pioneer in a male dominated industry and encouraged women to believe in their abilities to make the best out of themselves.

Talking about the challenges of being a corporate woman with a young family, Cynthia Mpanga – the Corporate Affairs Manager at Standard Chartered Bank Uganda encouraged women to keep advocating for policies that will alleviate the dire situations faced by women at the work place. Matilda Apio, shared her moving story of how being physically disabled did not stop her from achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer; while Eva Nantume, a student from Ndejje University gave an account of how she started a small business selling popcorns with the goal of alleviating her family from poverty. To emphasize the role that parents need to play in acknowledging children’s gifts, Victoria Byoma, a trained Lawyer shared her success story of becoming a fashion designer making and exporting arts and craft to Europe and USA.

Among the highlights of the Mentoring Walk was Nabisunsa girls’ school entertaining the crowd with poems and traditional dances that got most of the ladies to their feet. The exhibition was indeed another opportunity to show case the diversity of the products and services the women are involved in and for the accomplished women to pledge their commitment to supporting aspiring female entrepreneurs.

Just like last year, at the peak of the event, the women and girls lit up each other’s candles, symbolizing unity and togetherness upholding the concept of…. Mentoring is like a CANDLE, one can light so many candles without losing its glow, but will create more heat and better light.” The climax of the event came when all the women, in unison sang to Celine Dion’s Power of the Dream. This was a moment for celebration for the women of Uganda, because together we hold bright futures; and by reaching out to more women and girls the nation will be empowered. We have done our second Mentoring Walk in large numbers, indeed, the women and girls of Uganda know that “If you walk alone, you go very FAST, and when you take others with you, you go very FAR.”  This is the pillar that will glue and keep us together to “create a new generation of women leaders.”

We couldn’t have done all this without the support of our sponsors Standard Chartered Bank and Crown Beverages – Pepsi Uganda, the organizing committee: CEDA International, FAWE Uganda, Grana Fish Supplies and Jade Consult… and most especially to the participants, without whom the walk wouldn’t have happened.

Hajat Rehmah Kasule

Flag Bearer & Founder – CEDA International