U.S. supports professional development for Bulawayo women

The Women’s Development Dialogue (WDD) series is a program concluded in October 26th with a breakfast meeting. The program, sponsored by the United States Embassy   sought to empower established professionals and up-and-coming younger women.  Through monthly meetings and mentor-mentee pairings, it created a platform where women from various sectors can network and build unity, thereby planting seeds of women empowerment in Bulawayo..

The first breakfast meeting was held at a local hotel under the theme  “Personal and Professional Growth”. Speakers spoke about mentorship, goal setting and making personal and professional plans.  Among them, was United States Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. and his wife Mithi Aquino Thomas. In his remarks Ambassador Thomas Jr.   said his  government was  a strong supporter of the global effort to promote gender equality.

“My team in Harare works to support and enhance the contributions of Zimbabwean women in this society, and our partnership on the Women’s Development Dialogue series is one of several engagements that we have undertaken.”  He also spoke the first WDD series which was successfully conducted in Harare in 2015, with over 40 women from fields as diverse as health and medicine, academia, the arts, civil society, government and business. The success of the Harare WDD inspired the U.S. Embassy to launch a similar dialogue series in Bulawayo.

Bulawayo WDD participants also learnt about other United States State Department sponsored initiatives, most of which had benefitted women. These include the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), the Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring program and the TechWomen program. These programs have enabled more than thirty Zimbabwean women to travel to the U.S. to interact with professionals in their sectors, learn best practices and build their networks.

Participants of the dialogue series in Bulawayo hailed the program and paid tribute to mentors who volunteered their time and expertise to develop young professional women.

“The WDD programme as a whole and the mentoring has been a great experience,” Said Yolanda Dube, a young entrepreneur.  “There are certain goals I desired to achieve, but I never knew how.   My mentor has given me inspiration, insight and direction as to how to achieve those goals,” added Yolanda, who is founder of the YD Bridal.

Another mentee, Margaret Chemwayi said her mentor was a change- maker. “I started this program with her when I was ready to make a change in my career,” she sahred.   “She has been a great pillar for me and helped me grow both on a personal and professional level.  I am ready to tackle whatever professional opportunity I get with a different view, different expectations and with more knowledge on finances, balancing work and social life and growing in my field as a researcher and policy analyst.”

But equally mentors said they learnt from their mentees creating a platform for enhanced business and other partnerships. Eunice Dlamini, director of M&M Joyous Events and WDD mentor says “I realised mentorship is a two-way process.  Both mentee and mentor learn from each other.  It is a journey to success, when mentee succeeds, the mentor also inevitably succeeds.  It also gives a sense of worth and responsibility raises self-esteem, confidence and satisfaction.  It also sharpens leadership skills as well as interpersonal skills.”

Many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs have mentors. “They understand that success is not a one-person show and that mentors can help keep their businesses innovative and relevant.”  Three famous billionaires were asked about their experiences and thoughts on mentorship.  This is what they had to say:

“A small amount of time invested on your part to share your expertise can open up a new world for someone else.” – Mark Zuckerberg

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

“If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” – Richard Branson

“Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.” – Richard Branson

So does mentoring matter?  It does indeed.  The benefits are endless for both mentors and mentees.- ZimPAS © November 3rd 2016

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