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Connecting youth with vital voices

By - Njoki Chege | November 25th 2012

By Njoki Chege

It is not everyday that a high profile role model spares a few hours to talk, listen and share her experiences with a young mind. Mentorship hardly comes easy these days, given our busy schedules and fast-past lives.

But last Saturday, women from all walks of life left their busy schedules and turned up in droves for the Global Mentoring Walk at Nairobi’s Arboretum.

Established women from all professions turned up to be paired with younger professionals for mentorship, career advice, support and guidance.

Although this is a first of its kind in the country, the Global Mentoring Walk run under the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network has undertaken these sessions in the past five years.

Every year, members invest in the next generation of women leaders by organising local mentoring walks.

The concept was borrowed from media icon,  founder and former CEO of Oxygen Media, Geraldine Laybourne, who launched mentoring walks to empower young women professionals in New York City and across the United States.

Of the programme, Laybourne says: “Why is it that so many of us did well? Because we had a mentoring outlook. We helped each other along.”


Jebet Ahluwahlia, a beneficiary of the Fortune/US State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, was among the 25 women selected globally to be mentored by Fortune 500 Women in May this year.

Says Jebet: “I was paired up with Jackie Kelley, the Global CEO for Universal McCann, who runs a global company owning 150 offices around the world in 130 countries. I was asked if I wanted to be the flag bearer for my country and I thought, ‘why not’?”

Presidential aspirant Martha Karua graced the maiden event and was  paired up with a mentee, Susan Semenye. Karua was more than happy to play the mentoring role.

“I am paying a debt to society. I was also mentored and it is time to pass it down to the younger generation,” said the Gichugu MP.

Karua underscored the importance of older women connecting with younger women for mentorship.

“It is important for us all to know that at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we live by talking and sharing. We live by mutual support and affirmation from each other,” she said.

Susan the mentee was elated: “This is my first formal mentor. As a growing entrepreneur, I am eager to tap into Martha’s insights and see how her lessons can be applicable into my life.”

An anaesthetist at Nairobi and Aga Khan Hospitals, Dr Anuja Kapila, was paired up with two Daystar University students; Caroline Mbithe and Tarus Sharon.

Origin of mentorship

“In the past, mentoring was done by grandmothers and aunties, but today that role is shared by friends and colleagues. It is important that older women share their life experiences and take time to listen to younger women who need guidance,” said Dr Anuja.

According to Anuja, it is important for older women to take up the mentoring role and share lessons with their mentees so that they may avoid common pitfalls in their youth.

“I expect to learn a lot from my mentor and pick her mind on various aspects of life,” said Caroline, a mentee.

Tarus was also optimistic of the programme, noting that it came at an opportune time.

“It is time to embrace mentorship because every individual who has made it in life has passed through the hands of one,” said Tarus.

Teresa Kamara, Regional Consultant at People-In-Aid, mentored Chikka Yambo and Fransiscah Ngamau.

Teresa shared gems with her mentees: “If you don’t live your passion, then your job remains just that — a job. Always create the opportunity to demonstrate your passion and people will notice it and pay you serious money for it.”

Need for guidance

Jebet Ahluwahlia, Kenya’s flag bearer for the Global Mentorship Walkpoints and who was one  of the mentors, notes that Kenya lacks a strong mentorship culture, hence such initiatives to link the older and younger generations.

“I realised that there are not many spaces for sponsorship and mentorship among women, yet there are so many people willing to guide  younger women in an unlimited way,” she says.

Jebet sought to bridge this gap by linking up the two generations through mentorship and sharing.

Says Jebet: “The idea is for mentors to show mentees that it is possible for women to make it to the top and for them to share their experiences.”

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