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It’s a great honor for me to bring the Global Ambassadors Program, a Vital Voices and Bank of America partnership, closer to home in South Africa on International Women’s Day, March 8, for our tenth week-long mentoring exchange. 

I was born and raised in the neighbouring Kingdom of Swaziland, and much of my career has focused on empowering local women entrepreneurs. This program trip builds on our first visit to Cape Town, South Africa, in 2012. We are pairing 10 new mentors (“Global Ambassadors”) with 10 mentees for one-on-one mentoring sessions, group mentoring and targeted trainings to build organizational management acumen, and communications and marketing skills.

This time, in Johannesburg, we’ll be joined by (RED), an organization founded in 2006 to raise money and awareness for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Many of the Global Ambassadors are from partner (RED) companies, and the mentees – from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda – are actively working in businesses, social enterprises or clinics which focus on fighting HIV/AIDS, or provide economic opportunities to those living with HIV/AIDS. 

The program’s focus on empowering women leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS comes as the world reaches a tipping point in the fight, with 2013 marking the first time that more people newly accessed treatment than were newly infected with HIV. We’ll also be looking at the connection between HIV/AIDS and regional GDP. It’s been calculated that in South Africa alone HIV/AIDS will depress GDP by as much as 17 percent over the next decade.

Our week in Johannesburg features a Mentoring Walk on March 8, organized by Vital Voices Global Leadership Network member Hema Vallabh. We’ll visit the Right to Care clinic on March 11; and host a forum with regional and global experts and thought leaders on March 12 around women’s economic empowerment, “Africa Rising. Women Leading.” The open dialogue will explore the role of women in advancing economic and social progress in Africa, particularly in the context of global health and the digital revolution.

I can’t wait to get started and to watch our new mentees flourish as they learn from both the professional and personal leadership paths of their mentors. Since 2012, the Global Ambassadors Program has provided mentorship opportunities for 64 women leaders representing 33 countries. We’ve tracked impressive business and organizational growth as a result; we’ve witnessed lifelong friendships and professional collaborations take off; and most importantly, we’ve seen the power of the multiplier effect in action – the women business owners and social entrepreneurs in whom we invest time, training and resources, pay forward that investment to the next generation.

We’ll be blogging from South Africa and posting photo galleries each day – follow along and be sure to tweet questions to @VitalVoices, @BofA_News and @RED using the hashtag #GlobalAmbassadors. You’ll hear from mentors and mentees directly about what they hope to learn as part of the Global Ambassadors Program. Stay with us!

Meet the participants:

Global Ambassadors







Antonia Ashton
Vice President of Communications, SAP Africa 






Joyce Mbwette | Tanzania
Managing Director, Footloose Tanzania Ltd.






Katy Knox
Retail Banking & Distribution Executive, Bank of America, USA






Kogie Govender | South Africa   
Owner & Manager, Express Employment Professionals 






Cathy Steen
Senior Vice President, Business Development, Belvedere Vodka






Phillipa Thome | Swaziland
Creative Director, Gone Rural






Deborah Dugan






Agnes Atim Apea | Uganda 
CEO, Hope Development Initiative 






Kathleen Matthews
Executive VP & Chief Global Communications & Public Affairs Officer, Marriott International, Inc.






Sbusisiwe Myeni | South Africa 
CEO, Imbeleko, Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation 






Lily Neumeyer
Vice President of Programming, A&E Networks






Laura Akunga | Kenya 
Founder & CEO, Benchmark Solutions Limited 






Linda Mafu 
Head of Political and Civil Society Advocacy, The Global Fund






Feven Haddis | Ethiopia
Deputy CEO & Global Communications Manager, Hamlin Fistula 






Dr. Sipho S. Moyo
Africa Executive Director, The ONE Campaign






Lebo Ramafoko | South Africa
CEO, Soul City Institute 






Titi Cole 
Retail Products & Underwriting Executive, Bank of America 






Dr. Victoria Kisymobe | Tanzania
Managing Director, SELFINA 






Yvonne Ike
Managing Director, head of Sub-Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA), Bank of America Merrill Lynch 






Mary G. Mbukpa | Nigeria
Territorial Manager, Society for Family Health 


Read blogs 23 and 4 in the series.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, hashtag #GlobalAmbassadors.

Watch the program’s YouTube playlist.

Connect with Bank of America and (RED).