At the Commonwealth Women’s Leader’s Summit, the Secretary- General of the Commonwealth Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, called for intergenerational partnership to empower women. Following this meeting, myself and a group of inspirational young women from across the Commonwealth, decided that we wanted to help empower women by creating a Mentorship Programme for Women across Member States of the Commonwealth.
There are shocking figures from across the Commonwealth about the barriers women face. For instance, ‘three out of five illiterate young people are females.’ But realistically how can a Mentorship Scheme help overcome these boundaries?
We believe that by having a programme that is intergenerational we show that empowerment does not have to be limited to national boundaries and there is a wealth of people within the Commonwealth willing to commit their time to empowering girls and young women. One of my colleagues from the programme, Amanda, thinks that the programme ‘(not only) bridges the divide between different generations of women but equips women with the tools to shape and design the communities they live in and a future they would be proud of.’ By matching up women who have been empowered, successful and have a lot of skills and wisdom, with young women, we can encourage them to become empowered as well.
In Summer of 2016, we started planning and discussing how we could achieve this, and presented our idea of a Mentorship programme to the Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting in September 2016 where Member States mandated the Commonwealth Secretariat to implement an intergenerational programme. After receiving this big support, we have manged create and run this programme with help from the Commonwealth youth networks (in particular the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network (CYGEN) and the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, Rotary International and the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network.
After successfully creating all the documents and structure to run the programme, in March of this year, I launched the programme at the Commonwealth Secretariat with one of my colleagues from the programme. We accepted applications from women aged 18-29 until April and after a long process of matching successful mentees and mentors, the programme has been running since July 2017. It attracted over 700 applications from young women needing or believing that they needed a mentor for personal and professional development.
The programme is a 6 month pilot and will run until December, which if successful there have been suggestions for this to be a permanent programme run by the Commonwealth! In the meantime, we have been getting a lot of publicity –we have had press releases from the Commonwealth Secretariat, a retweet by the Prime Minister of Malta, a launch in Guyana, a mention in the House of Lords and have also been all over newspapers and national news channels in the Caribbean!
It has been such a great experience running this programme so far, and just seeing already the benefits that the programme is creating for mentees and mentors alike is so great to see! One of my favourite quotes is ‘empowered women, empower women.’ I can’t wait to review the programme at the end of this year and see if we have been able to truly assist in empowering women!
By Kavita Sharma, UKYA Commonwealth Ambassador 2015- 2017 and European Representative on the Commonwealth Youth Council 2015- 2017
- Blog post from Commonwealth Youth Council on our event in Guyana http://commonwealthyouthcouncil.com/official-launch-of-commonwealth-womens-mentorship-scheme/