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Over 50 dedicated participants gathered for Swaziland’s inaugural Mentoring Walk early on Saturday morning, November 20. The walk, sponsored by Stefanutti & Bressan Construction, Inyatsi Construction and Swazi Design Branding Specialists, marked the completion of Swaziland’s first Mentoring Program, which was spearheaded by Vital Voices’ Zoe Dean-Smith in March of this year. The 10K Mentoring Walk was open to young women with interest in learning from the life experiences and support of their community’s professional women, such as Nelisiwe Bulunga.

Vital Voices Program Coordinator for Africa, Helah Robinson, was in Swaziland for the walk. Read Helah’s post below:

In an effort to beat the heat of summer in southern Africa, Swaziland’s inaugural Vital Voices Mentoring Walk kicked off at 7:00 AM on November 20, 2010 and I had the honor to participate. Generously sponsored by, Stefanutti & Bressan Construction, Inyatsi Construction and Swazi Design Branding Specialists, the walk was one of the final and culminating events of Vital Voices’ 2010 Mentoring Program in Swaziland that was launched this past March by Vital Voices’ own Zoe Dean-Smith. The walk was open to mentors, mentees as well as girls and women not yet formally involved in the Mentoring Program. With over 50 participants, the event allowed Form 5 (high school seniors) girls and passionate and committed professional women from their community to share life experiences and provided valuable support.

As I trekked the 10K with the participants, I spoke with one mentor, Nelisiwe Bulunga, and was moved by her story. “I realized it’s a such a lovely, brilliant idea,” she said. “This was a nice way to give back to someone else. [Walking with] my mentee was such an experience for me. I have both my parents, and grandparents. She’s got no parents and no grandparents – so it’s just her and her sisters. It was an eye-opener that to somebody out there, just a little love and a phone call can make a big different in their lives.”

I also clearly felt the benefits mentees gain from the program, and from the walk. In an interview with a local news crew who were covering the event, mentee Thandeka Mavuso called on rising Form 5 girls to get involved: “To all the girls…I can only advise them to be a part of Vital Voices. Don’t miss out, there’s nothing else like it.”