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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Womentoring Experience: A Reflection

This year a solid theme of focus for us at WCA is  mentorship and ensuring that women are opening spaces to support and build each other up not just in business but also with professional career  and personal growth.  This is why WCA was thrilled to partner with the African Women's Development Fund-USA and Moremi Initiative an organization that develops African women leaders to become leaders.

The event was an intimate mentorship event in New York City during the Commission on the status of women on March 16th 2017 with the goal of bringing women together from different generations to learn, build relationships, and enhance their outlook on life. In particular, the event brought young African women from across different generations including feminists, activists, thought leaders and trail blazers. Here are some of my key takeaways from the event:

1. Value the importance of building relationships offline:  In the social media age it can be easy to forget that a phone call, and most importantly an in person meeting makes all the difference.  In sharing her experiences, Professor Abena Busia Chair of the African Women's Development Fund-USA emphasized the importance of black women coming together to gather frequently to support each other and to build communities of sisterhood.  She emphasized that one of the main reasons for Wo-mentoring was for us to have such a space with African women from all across the diaspora as well as the continent.

2. Build intergenerational relationships with women across all ages: One of the most important things I have known to be true for a long time is mentorship is neither liner nor is it a one way street. Therefore the value of  intergenerational mentorship is important. During the event I noticed how the older women offered advice from their younger years and how much the younger women in their  treasured such stories, because it made them feel as if "someone else has been through this". The affirmation one gets from another human being that "I see and know your struggle" can be tremendous and life changing and help nurture relationships in such spaces. I also noticed how much the older women learnt from the stories of the younger women in the space, what their challenges currently where ranging from "what am I going to do next with my life?" to how to balance relationships, work, etc..the conversations were endless and full of depths, where we laughed, cried, sighed, and had long pauses to take in the moment at times.


3. Your story is what defines who you are:   Ms. Bisi Adeyemi Fayemi someone whose work I truly admire, spoke of the importance of always doing a self assessment for one to be clear on their character and not what others make them out to be.  She advised the women one an exercise she partakes in often is developing a list of positive identity affirmations and reading them out loud  for e.g. My name is Moiyattu... I am brave, I am powerful, I am unshakable etc.  Ms. Fayemi explained that such affirmations often remind us of who we are when we experience life challenges that may cause us to forget.  There were very intimate stories shared by some of the younger women as well as older women. For us to be able to open up it meant being able to trust the space and "it takes strength for one to be vulnerable" Maame Afon Director of Partnerships from Moremi Initiative stated during the discussions.

4. Practice Selfcare! During the conversations, Haddy Jonga, a Moremi Fellow from the Gambia and a member of Think Woman Africa an organization working to mentor girls in the Gambia, brought up her struggles of taking care of herself and expressed her need for advice on how to deal with stress and overload of work. One of the most powerful statements I took away was knowing the balance between selfishness and selflessness. Madame Fayemi advised the women to practice selffulness meaning that one isn't necessarily selfish and only thinking of themselves, or selfless and only pouring into the lives of others until they burn out, but to be selfful means  caring for others  whilst also nourish yourself and your work.  This point reasonated with me because at WCA and in my everyday life I am constantly thinking of intentional ways to balance pouring into others as well as pouring into myself.

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