Employee blog: South Africa 2015

Day 3: Our visit to the Right to Care

Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg was remarkable. The clinic is part of a public hospital but has been funded by the Global Fund (through RED) as well as U.S. government aid – and has made huge strides in patient care. It’s recognized as a state of the art facility with incredibly enthusiastic and professional health care staff. The clinic serves the health needs of individuals holistically, including HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, tuberculosis and basic health care.
It was amazing to see the advances in technology that are enabling individuals to access their HIV/AIDS medication in a more efficient manner. The clinic is piloting an automatic medication dispenser, similar to an ATM machine, which cuts down on waiting times, makes obtaining medication easier for patients and even enables individuals to connect with a pharmacist. The banking sector in South Africa has always been on the cutting edge of technology so it’s great to see this same kind of application in the health sector. It could be truly ground-breaking if this gets rolled out more broadly.

The most moving part of our visit was meeting some HIV positive mothers who followed the prescribed medication while pregnant and have babies who are HIV negative. They shared their stories of how they found out they were pregnant and learned about the regimen to ensure their babies were HIV free. They described how they encourage other mothers who are HIV positive to take their medication regularly. It was very meaningful to hear their stories and see their happiness around their children’s health – and future.

Day 1 of the Global Ambassadors Program – Julia's Reflections

Sitting in on the first full day of Global Ambassadors Program sessions today, I was amazed to hear the stories of mentees and mentors on how their paths have developed. The mentees shared their journey, for example Philippa Thorne who transitioned from working in fashion in the UK to being an advocate and leader of women artisans in Swaziland. It was clear that while many have faced real hardship, they have risen out of necessity and worked to build businesses and social enterprises. It’s wonderfully inspiring to hear how they’ve gone off the beaten path, found their passion and recognized an important niche they can address.

At the firm, we focus on the power of connections and this theme resonated as I listened to the Ambassadors and mentees. Each story sparked an idea with me on ways to help these women build their networks further, to connect with other women in the business world or to take their business to the next level. It was also striking to realize the underlying thread of Africa connections – a common theme as Ambassadors mentioned past ties to the continent – and the special connection that individuals have with Africa. People develop a passion for Africa which is long-term and forms part of their identity. For example, Antonia Ashton, a Global Ambassador from SAP Africa left South Africa and spent years in Europe before deciding she had to return and make her life here.

It was a great day of sharing, with some one-on-one mentoring time also, setting the context for the week ahead!

Day 1 Mentoring Walk

Yesterday’s Johannesburg Mentoring Walk was a successful event! There was a wonderful energy and many of the mentees expressed how much it meant to them to have an opportunity to meet and speak with mentors for such diverse backgrounds and at such different stages in their careers.

At the walk, I was paired with a young woman who is an economist working for a private economic research company. Her goal is to make a difference in communities in Sub-Saharan Africa by moving into the public sector and becoming more engaged in policy, for example by working at an organization like the Development Bank of South Africa. As we discussed her goals, I suggested that she conduct outreach to people at the institutions she is interested in and ask for advice on how to build skills that will help position her for this kind of work. And that she think about her network and who can help facilitate introductions.

We also had a few of employees participate as mentees – which was a nice opportunity to connect with the theme of mentoring this week. Overall, the Mentoring Walk feedback was very positive, and I think many relationships were forged during the day. It was very rewarding as a mentor to understand how driven, ambitious and energized young women in South Africa are today.

Q&A: Mentorship at a glance

Recently, Julia Benadie shared her perspective on the important role that mentoring has made on her professional and personal development.

How has your leadership path developed?
Julia: “I’ve been fortunate to know women who have guided and inspired me throughout my career. I’m motivated to become a better leader by raising awareness of women in the workplace and the essential role they play. I try to lead by example by spending time on initiatives like the Global Ambassadors Program.”

How has mentoring played a role in your life?
Julia: “I have various mentors, both men and women, locally and abroad, who guide me in different ways. Someone else’s knowledge and experience is invaluable and allows you to look at your own environment more objectively. Mentoring teaches you to make the right choices and empowers you to be successful.”

We’re at a tipping point in the fight against AIDS. Any thoughts on how Bank of America employees can work together to raise awareness and take action on this issue?
Julia: “The impact of this disease is especially relevant for us in Africa. In South Africa, our Bank of America team supports an orphanage which cares for HIV positive babies and children. Hopefully, our support inspires them in some small way. “

What does it mean to you to have the Global Ambassadors Program in your market?
Julia: ”I’m very proud to have the event in my city this year! South Africa is one of Africa’s leading economies, but it is not without its challenges. The topics for discussion on the agenda for the forum -- Global Health, the Digital Revolution and Women’s Leadership -- could not be more relevant in Africa today.”


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