This past March, I found myself in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, surrounded by a group of incredibly inspiring and talented female leaders -- all with diverse backgrounds but one common goal: explore and expand the leadership potential of Haitian women. I served as an ambassador through the Global Ambassadors Program, a new partnership between Bank of America and Vital Voices, the leading international nongovernmental organization dedicated to training and mentoring emerging female leaders.
The goal of the program is to invest in female leaders around the world, mobilizing Global Ambassadors (mentors) to reach an ever-growing network of female leaders over the next five years. The program will achieve that goal through mentoring forums, matching each emerging leader with an established influencer who can help the mentee build critical communications, advocacy and business skills and develop strategies to positively impact local communities through the work she plans to pursue.
Having spent five days collaborating with past and present public servants, entrepreneurs and activists, I simply cannot imagine a more valuable endeavor than that of enabling emerging women leaders to achieve their full potential.
The program is holding its second mentoring forum this week in Cape Town, South Africa. The forum brings together five Global Ambassadors and more than 20 high-profile international female leaders to advance the dialogue around the value and impact that women's leadership will have on the post-U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals -- ranging from drastically reducing poverty to providing universal primary education -- are top priorities agreed upon by countries around the world.
Meanwhile, the results in Haiti have been better than we ever could have imagined -- among other things, the public policy framework outlined by the Haitian National Women's Platform produced at that forum has been accepted by Haitian President Michel Martelly, who has agreed to meet with the female leaders to consider steps for the practical implementation of the platform.
Since my time in Haiti, my relationship with my mentee, Danielle Saint-Lôt -- former executive director of Haiti's Chamber of Commerce and one of the country's leading women's rights activists -- has continued to flourish. Beyond growing closer as friends, we have continued to execute on various components of the plan we outlined together in Port-au-Prince. To me, this ongoing relationship gets to the very basis of what mentoring is: an enduring process. In order to help these incredible women continue to make a lasting impact in the communities where they live and work, we, as mentors, must make a commitment to advancing and building on our initial goals -- and making new ones when we have checked those off the list.
Mentoring women is a purpose with the potential to affect change on a large scale -- strong leaders are vital to healthy, vibrant communities, and women are, in cultures the world over, deeply in touch with the needs of their communities. Female leaders, given the tools and resources they need to succeed, will develop and implement creative solutions that ensure a more sustainable future. In today's ever-changing world, where global challenges necessitate strong leadership, the need for training and mentorship for women leaders has never been so acute.
While I will be cheering from the sidelines as the next group of ambassadors and mentees get down to business in Cape Town, I feel incredibly privileged to be part of a program that is committed to providing emerging female leaders with the skills and tools they need to positively contribute to their communities, the global economy and a more sustainable future. As mentors, we take away from the experience at least as much as we give, if not more. I look forward to continuing to learn from ambassadors and mentees -- both past and present -- in hopes of doing my part to contribute to this growing network of insightful, driven women leaders around the world.
Justine Metz is a marketing executive at Bank of America who traveled to Haiti for the inaugural mentoring forum of the Global Ambassadors Program.