Olutope (Topsie) Olatilewa Egbetokun is a 2015 Vital Voices VVLead Fellow and the Founder and CEO of Business Without Boundaries, a consulting firm that helps businesses develop strategic plans and turn ideas into reality. This year she organized the first Global Mentoring Walk in Ibadan, Nigeria. It was one of 86 Mentoring Walks around the world in celebration of International Women’s Day.
This year, I had the privilege of organizing the first Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk in Ibadan, Nigeria. Being the Flag Bearer of this event was eye-opening. As mentors and mentees shared their personal knowledge of women’s issues with each other, I realized that fostering connections between women is a crucial step in the journey toward women’s empowerment.
Women are born multipliers of lives. We are able to multi-task: by focusing on others first while also considering our own needs, we expand impact to our families, communities and beyond, even when we are working with limited resources.
Women’s empowerment creates a ripple effect in a community; if a woman can express her voice, she can utilize her unique skills to contribute to her community. If she provides for her community, she will add to the economic growth of her country. Empowering women isn’t just about human rights; it’s about empowering half of the world’s population to unlock its full potential. To do that, women need to help each other grow and learn, and mentorship is the best place to start.
Twenty-five mentors and 150 mentees reflected on their lived experiences of the global issues that we addressed during the Mentoring Walk, bringing personal stories to our panel discussions on female empowerment. The conversations between mentors and mentees that followed produced innovative ideas for solving issues facing women in Ibadan and across the world, ranging from men’s role in women’s empowerment to healthy decision-making.
As mentors and mentees discovered new ways of looking at issues together, I was reminded how important it is for women to have support systems in their careers and personal lives. There is no singular approach to developing these systems, but it can be as simple as accessing resources. These resources allow us to stay aware of business opportunities, or find a group of people to lean on in difficult personal times.
My advice to emerging women leaders is to cultivate support systems at an individual level, a social level and a career level. By participating in the Mentoring Walk, women in Ibadan have created networks for their professional development as well as have gained advice, resources and a community of women leaders. Beyond that, mentors and mentees have learned the power of connections and support systems, creating a ripple of empowerment in their own lives, communities and countries.