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Vital Voices has been a part of my life for more than 15 years. As a member of the Board, I’ve seen the organization and our network around the world grow tremendously. In all this time there’s one reason I continue to be engaged: I can see firsthand the transformation of the women we reach. It’s been incredible to connect with women leaders in our network, women who have an ambitious vision to improve their communities and give back to other women. I often hear about the direct impact that Vital Voices has in helping them achieve their vision and have hope for the future.

This May I had the chance to meet with several of these remarkable women when I travelled to El Salvador for CreceMujer, the regional meeting of our Vital Voices Central America Chapter Network. More than 1,000 women and men from diverse disciplines and sectors gathered to share successful projects and ideas for the future. Each of the six Central American Chapters presented best practices for supporting women’s leadership in the region. Across the board it was clear that mentoring is one of the most powerful, effective ways to accelerate women’s leadership.

All chapters run active mentoring programs with measurable results, and many take the tools they use to corporations to encourage private sector leaders in implementing mentoring initiatives within their own companies. I was so impressed and encouraged by the enthusiasm around mentoring, especially when it comes to engaging teenage girls. Many chapters are reaching out to the younger generation, connecting girls and young women with role models who can support their goals from an early age.

What was even more inspiring is how committed the chapter leaders are to following the Vital Voices vision and mission of cultivating women’s leadership. Most of these leaders have their own successful businesses and donate much of their free time to the chapter’s outreach and programs. They are true examples of paying it forward.

In all my conversations – with men and women – there was a common, guiding belief that women’s leadership is needed and it is essential. Without women’s active participation and the “pay it forward” mentality, the status quo remains and things don’t change for the better. I won’t forget speaking to three women who’d participated in our VV GROW Fellowship program. Each one said that the experience took her business, and her leadership, to the next level. I was honored when each one proudly told me, “Now, I am a mentor.”

For me, this is exactly what Vital Voices is about. We’re here to help women leaders grow and realize their vision, and when they do, they reach back and help other women rise up next to them.