Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Women Mentor Walk (WMW) mentoring walk was really a great experience. It was held at the Nairobi Safari Walk of Kenya Wildlife Services. There were about 300-400 women walking. Women were randomly paired up and we walked and talked and looked at the animals.

I went as a mentor and had three women walk with me. One was in her 20s and worked in the Human Resources department of a bank, another was 37 and is the head of Human Resources for a outdoor advertising display company and a 30-year-old woman is a General Practitioner M.D.

A training for mentors was held earlier in the month that I was clearly not able to attend. We were given hand-outs that we could follow that discussed pillars of leadership development, social development and character. Signs were posted along the route (approximately 1 ½ miles) suggesting these topics, as well.

What a terrific morning. We did see some animals, although a lot were hiding in the bush. A brazen baboon (which may be an oxymoron) came up and took a woman’s bag and ripped it open before someone from the Park scared it away. All the other animals were secure behind fences—including the lion, miniature hippos, albino zebras, antelope and many other animals that we saw.

As we walked and talked, it wasn’t important who the mentor or mentee. We talked as women discussing different situations we were in—at our jobs, in our career, with our families, in our life path—and helped each other with suggestions. Jane, the 37-year-old, wants to mentor women so she participated in this walk to get some ideas, and build her confidence.

The main theme for the walk was Pay It Forward and help mold the next generation of leaders. The first WMW was held in New York in 2005and the initiative was founded by Geraldine Laybourne, the Chair and CEO of Oxygen Media. The walk has now spread to four states, Kenya and 10 other countries, including Argentina, Peru, Serbia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt, Jordan and Russia. It is now an initiative of the U.S. State Department-Vital Voices-Fortune 500 Mentorship program.

Dr. Auma Obama was a special guest. She is the Coordinator for CARE International in East Africa and half-sister of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama. I had a chance to talk to her and we plan on getting together again later in the week. I brought medical supplies from the U.S. that I donated to her to give to some of the clinics she might work with.

Both mentors and mentees were quite excited by the half-day event and I look forward to hearing from my three mentees. Each is on a different path (one has one-year-old twin girls) and I look forward to sharing that with them and seeing them again upon a return visit to Kenya.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kenya - Day 1

I arrived in Nairobi last night after 29 hours of travel from Sedona. Vital Voices contracted me to do a training here next week which I will talk about further in a future blog. I am participating in two other Vital Voices events before next week’s training.

Vital Voices was started in 1997 by then-First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to promote the advancement of women as a US Foreign policy goal. It is the preeminent non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world and providing these women with the capacity, connections and credibility they need to unlock their leadership potential. In June 2000 Vital Voices Global Partnership was created as nonprofit. Besides Senator Clinton (D-NY), the other two honorary co-chairs are Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-TX) and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, former US Senator (R-KS). For more, go to

I have spoken at conferences for Vital Voices before, including leadership conferences for Latin American women in Miami, FL, African women in Capetown, South Africa (2007), and Eura-Asia women in Kiev, Ukraine (2007).

My first day here in Kenya I attended a “Women’s Business Forum” which reminded me a lot of WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy). The WBF ( is sponsored by Vital Voices and The Gates Foundation. My good friend here, Eva Muraya, put the program together.

About 20 leading women entrepreneurs in Kenya trained in advocacy skills to enable them to face up the challenges of engaging stakeholders so that policies and legal barriers can be changed to create a more enabling and level economic playing field for women.

The main objective of WBF is to improve the quality of lives among women and to secure the rights and opportunities for women in business, governance and leadership positions. This will be realized through the following specific objectives:
1. to enhance women’s participation in policy making process
2. To impart gender advocacy skills among emerging women leaders
3. To establish increased access to finance for women entrepreneurs
4. Gender mainstreaming of government projects, financial services providers, corporate governance and legal

Advocating for “economic” issues has never been discussed before, they said. Advocacy here is generally acout human rights so the idea of economic empowerment and advocacy is a first.

The speakers lined up were extremely impressive. Jane Kiragu, Managing Director of Satima Consultants Ltd, organized the seminar with Eva. She is a lawyer
and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She is a household name in Kenya and has over 18 years of experience in human rights law, lobbying, research, training, facilitation, evaluations, operational management and legal work. She said there are five fluid stages of advocacy: issue identification, developing solutions, awareness building (building political support), policy action and evaluating the policy.

An icon in Kenya politics is Mrs. Rose Waruhiu, a former member of Parliament. Her public service career spanned 35 years. She served as a fellow at IOP Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Betty Murungi, Director of the Urgent Action Fund in Nairobi, talked about “trading up” your advocacy. She has a degree in law and was a fellow at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program in 2005-2006. She has extensive experience in the Human Rights of Women and was awarded the international Advocate for Peace Award by the Cardozo Law School in New York.

She drew a spiral with “me and mine” in the middle. As the spiral unfolds is the “team” or your “company/business.,” The next part of the cycle is community and then policy change, followed by regional, national and glob
al. After global is social entrepreneurship. She calls the inner part the “me, me, me. You will always revert back to this if you go through a divorce, your spouse dies—we tighten up. If we’re here, we go around in circles and someone else controls your life.” But if you continue progressing in advocacy, you eventually go global and become a social entrepreneur.

It was a fascinating day, hearing a different culture discuss advocacy and seeing how much work there is for all of us to do in research (thank goodness for the Center for Women’s Business Research in the U.S.!) and advocacy. And thank goodness for WIPP that has gotten us so far down the road in the U.S.!

I’ll be up early tomorrow morning for the First Annual Women Mentoring Women (WMW) Walk.

The WMW walk is an annual event that will be held in 15 countries around the world including Kenya.. It is an initiative of the Vital Voices-Fortune 500 Mentorship program alumni around the world. It is an exciting opportunity to pay it forward.
I will not have a mentor there, but the 500 expected attendees will be teams of seasoned entrepreneurs and young women ages 21-30. While walking the 1.5-2 kilometers, the women will share wisdom and experience in the areas of leadership, character and social etiquette. For more info go to or come back here tomorrow when I report on the walk! Time for bed—its been a tough day to stay awake!