Adetoun(another Nigerian nominee for the US state department mentor ship program)and I arrived at the United States of America to a welcome by a cab driver assigned to us from vital voices after such a long and seemingly endless trip.Detoun and I had to pretend we were on the phone as the cab driver insisted on telling us about his experience at an Ibo village, where he had escorted his then girlfriend to her Father's funeral. We arrived at Hotel Palomar to a lovely sunny day and very contemporary room, changed clothes and went downstairs to meet all the mentees from the 32 countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Thailand, Palestinian territories ,Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania, Argentina, Brazil and Haiti; All shining stars from their respective nations and doing incredible things for women empowerment.
representative of the U.S state department, the President and CEO, Vital Voices and the Program coordinator.
I received a package from my mentoring company: a mobile phone, which was
special as no other mentee got one .We chatted, had dinner and went back to
our rooms to prepare for the next busy 4days of orientation.
Our orientation started with a State Department Leadership panel with
heavy tittles like the Assistant Secretary of state for verification,
compliance and implementation ,Director of Policy Planning, Ambassador at
large for global women¡¦s¡¦ issue; All women with qualifications and work
experience that would intimidate you to having goose bumps. They shared
their challenges as mothers and the changing conditions for women leaders
in the world today(no feminists in the room). When asked by one how they
balance work and family, she said, ¡¥you can¡¦t balance but keep joggling¡¦
Now, that for me, was an ¡¥Ahha!¡¦ moment. Interesting, ain't it?
Ann-Marie Slaughter particularly caught my attention with some of her
enlightening yet captivating views. They include:
„Ï 'WHEN YOU PUT FAMILY FIRST, WORK COMES TOGETHER¡¦
„Ï ¡¥REMEMBER YOUR TEAM MEMBERS ARE WHOLE PEOPLE WITH SPIRIT,SOUL AND
BODY,YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT; AT THE END
THEY ENABLE YOU AS YOU ENABLE THEM DO THEIR WORK¡¦
„ÏCreate a culture of the presumptive ¡¥Yes¡¦, Which she learnt as the
director of graduate and international legal studies at Harvard law school.
She served as a Dean at Princeton University. She talked about her model of
leadership, Ending with the phrase, ¡¥the people that work with us are whole
people¡¦ and ¡¥putting yourself forward and making yourself the candidate¡¦.
Now, how is that for a start? I would call it inspiring, remarkable and
unforgettable. What would you call it?
We visited with more powerful women, went for a lecture at the prestigious
Georgetown university, had Lunch at Nora's, the first organic restaurant in
America, which was started by a woman 32years ago, networked with more
powerful women and learnt more, visited the first house (sorry didn't bump
into is Michelle).Had more posh dinners, hopefully i will have added weight
on mu returnƒº
The climax of the orientation program was the mentor and mentee dinner
organized by Fortune magazine and Fortunes Most Powerful Women's Summit at
the State department. Many of our mentors had never been to the state
department before that date, so it was a an opportunity that may never had
happened unless they had volunteered their time. Visited some Washington
Monuments took some more pictures...