On November 21, Uganda joined the otheråŹsix countries around the world to participate in the Global Mentoring Walk 2009.
During the FORTUNE/US State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Program in May 2009 one lady at AXA Equitable asked me the three things that if I had that would have made my life better. This was indeed an “A-ha” moment for me… This is a question that had gone through my mind for years. My answer was: “If I had proper guidance, support networks and self belief, my journey would have been simpler and better.” Coming back home, mentoring other women has become my mission – to support and guide women in Uganda by starting Mentoring Clubs which will help girls in school, women in employment and women entrepreneurs to unleash their potential.
The major purpose of the Uganda mentoring walk was rooted in Augusto Lopez-Claros’ quote “It is indeed very likely that there is a strong and positive correlation between Africa’s economic growth and the unleashing of female talent”. My objectives were:
åį To raise awareness about Mentoring as a key tool for personal development.
åį To bring together women professionals and emerging women professionals in mentoring partnerships in order to create a network of role models.
åį To illustrate women’s dedication to building leadership and spotlight the accomplishments of women in Uganda.
åį To initiate a series of activities which will identify, guide and support young women “to lead a life of Choice not Chance” so that they make a positive transition into adulthood.
With a Vision “of creating a new generation of women leaders” who will become the best in whatever they do, I launched the walk from Centenary Park at 9:00am, with Geraldine Laybourne, a prominent American businesswoman and the founder of the mentoring walk concept. With a sunny bright morning, the walk began with energy and vibrancy; you could feel the excitement from Mentees (wearing green Ribbon bracelets) and the Mentors (wearing blue ribbon bracelets). The walk brought together students from various girls’ schools, female managers from corporate companies, powerful women from public and private institutions, non government organizations, women’s groups/organizations and women entrepreneurs totaling to 350 women and girls.
The walk went through Yusuf Lule road and ended at UBC gardens where the guest of honor addressed the participants. As they walked the young girls openly shared their aspirations and dreams. From all the conversations shared, one thing remained clear: this is indeed a noble cause, which Ugandan women have been waiting for. It was amazing that many girls knew exactly what they wanted to be in future but all the role models they look up to are men. So for many girls, this was indeed an opportunity to tap into the diversity among the women present and for the accomplished women to pledge their commitment to supporting these girls.
At 10:00am, the smartly dressed walkers reached the UBC grounds where they listened to an inspiring poem and the testimonies of the speakers. The Walk was honored by the presence of the American Ambassador Jerry Lanier and his daughter as well as the Founder of the Mentoring Walk, Geraldine Laybourne and representatives from Vital Voices.
In her address to the walkers, Geraldine Laybourne pledged her support to the women of Uganda and recognized the power women have to transform their lives and the future of their countries. Dr. Noerine Kaleeba, Guest of Honour retaliated her support towards mentoring women and advised women to always have a purpose in life. Walkers also heard from Grace Makoko- a manager at Standard Chartered bank who talked about life/work balance, Nanyonga Grace a young girl who has looked her six siblings with income from selling chicken and Florence Ndagire, a young lady who has overcome her disability as a blind person to become a Lawyer. I too shared my life story from the village to the city and shared my inspiration for the walks.
With the analogy of “When you have a candle in your hand and light another person’s candle, yours will never loss its glow but together you will have better light and heat”… the girls and women of Uganda started lighting up each others candles. This wasn’t only symbolic, but also signified the fire that the women have started which will bring total transformation of their lives and the country. Shouts of jubilation were in the air as Geraldine launched the Uganda Mentoring Walk. The climax of the event came when the loud speakers blared out the famous song “We are the World”.
Singing to the lyrics of the song, the girls and women of Uganda pledged their role and support to Women Mentoring Women to Excel. This was indeed a moment for celebrations and for the women of Uganda, they now know that in their future lies brightness and hope for them, their children and their country.