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Let Our Voices Be Heard

22 April 2014

Spokeswomen @ lunchAt mothers2mothers (m2m), we know there is no more effective way to communicate the lifesaving work Mentor Mothers do than through their own powerful voices and inspirational stories. That’s why earlier this year, m2m carefully selected eight new spokeswomen to bring to our head office in Cape Town to participate in a presentation skills and storytelling workshop the last week of February. During their week in Cape Town, the women had experiences and learned things they never dreamed were possible, including makeovers courtesy of our longtime funder and partner, MAC Cosmetics.

The eight new spokeswomen were selected from dozens of applicants who had been nominated by m2m country offices to participate in the training (with the exception of our country office in Kenya which held their own training late last year). While there were many strong speakers to choose from, the selection of the final group was based on their personal experiences and stories, geographical diversity, and infectious passion for empowering women, eliminating paediatric AIDS, and improving the health and wellbeing of families and communities.

On camera practice

Juliet practicing her speech

“I wanted to change the face of PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission) from being clinical to being personal,” said Khanyisile Mavimbela, who runs an m2m Site in a rural area of Swaziland, on why she applied to become an m2m spokeswoman. “So often we hear all of the big clinical words from doctors, telling us what should be done and what is possible. I know it will be totally different coming from me. It will not be just words, but a story of hope and courage,” she added.

The journey to Cape Town was a big adventure for the women who flew in for the training. For most of them, it was their first time travelling outside of their country, flying on a plane, and navigating through busy airports. And while they jumped at the opportunity, they all admitted to being nervous before the trip.

“I was a little nervous before getting to the airport. I thought of all the movies that I have seen where planes crashed or were hijacked,” said Hlengiwe Lwandle who flew in from Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. But when she got to her gate, she saw her plane was painted bright orange and she thought, “no one would ever hijack an orange airplane. I relaxed at the funny thought and when the plane finally took off I was enjoying looking at the clouds far below. It was so beautiful.”

Etiquette session

Etiquette class with Les Aupiais

The training was conducted by Les Aupiais, a well-known broadcast journalist in South Africa who now runs her own media consulting and training firm in Cape Town, along with the assistance of media relations expert Nicole Chamberlin. It covered a wide range of topics, including basic presentation and story-telling skills, media interviewing techniques, international travel tips, and sessions on western etiquette.

During the etiquette session, Les set up a formal place setting and walked the women through what to do at a fancy dinner. This was fascinating to all of the women who had never seen so many utensils for one person before.

“I come from rural Uganda where our favourite utensil is our hands. No one cares to learn about using forks and knives,” says Juliet Nalumu, a Site Coordinator at the Kamuli Mission Hospital. “I found it very challenging when I suddenly had to figure out how to hold both [a fork and knife] and which one went in which hand.”

Les and Nicole also helped each woman craft their own speeches and worked with them individually on their delivery and presentation.

“Before I came to the training, I thought there is not much more one can learn about public speaking. We do health education talks every morning at the clinics. We do community outreach events which all involve speaking,” says Hlengiwe. However, she was surprised at how much there was to learn. “I didn’t know that public speaking involved so many things, from the way one looks, crafting the message to fit specific audiences, up to the actual delivery of the message,” she added.

At the end of the week, the group selected three women to present their full speeches to m2m’s Board members, who were meeting in Cape Town. The women were then awarded certificates of completion by Board Vice Chair, Dr. Donna Futterman, to acknowledge all that they had achieved over the course of the week.

Khanyi4

Khanyisile getting her MAC makeover

Before heading home, each woman was treated to a makeover by MAC Cosmetics at their beautiful store at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The week of training and the make up session left the women feeling ready to take on their next m2m adventure, wherever that may be.

“I look forward to getting a chance to travel for m2m, even if it is still within Malawi. I just want to tell new people my story and how m2m has empowered me not just as a mother or woman, but a working professional,” said Violet Mbewe, who runs an m2m site in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Do you want to meet m2m’s Class of 2014? Click here to watch video testimonials of each spokeswoman.

Also, please visit our Facebook page to see more photos of the training and the women’s MAC makeovers.

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