How would you describe the current mentorship environment for young women in Uganda looking to actively take up leadership? Would you say that our education systems are contributing to or standing in the way of women reaching their full leadership potential? Do you agree that mentorship starts right from home? This week’s episode of FasiFas! focuses on mentoring young women into leadership with emphasis on the role played by schools, communities, existing systems and the young people themselves in reaching their full leadership potential.
According to Ms. Sarah Nankame, a program manager at MEMPROW, a Mentoring and Empowerment Program for Young Women, there is a number of NGOs that have gone a long way in building capacities and mentoring women looking to join leadership.However, even today, across all societies and communities, young women from all backgrounds are still shying away from leadership.
One of the reasons highlighted is the lack of career guidance from a young age. We see a lot of concentration on the boy-child in homes and schools. Research shows that most of our leaders today managed to develop leadership traits because they nurtured them at an early stage in life. Take for instance Ms Winnie Kiiza, the Leader of Opposition. Winnie was a leader even as a young woman. She was an avid debater in her school days. Her debating passion saw her get selected to travel to Norway to articulate children’s rights in the 1991 Children’s Rights Convention. She was also a class monitor, head prefect, netball captain, chairperson of Scripture Union – a Christianity club in schools. These school leadership positions prepared her for future roles.This proves not only the vast role played by mentoring done in school clubs, but also that you can start your national leadership journey at community level.
We also see subtle discrimination against women in the career world. Organisations are quick to claim support for women empowerment but will still have a gross gender imbalance in leadership and decision-making roles with women at a disadvantage.
The responsibility also lies with the young leaders to look out for programs that offer mentorship and read extensively. “If you’re aspiring to become a leader, you as a young person have to look out for information, know and love to read, because as a young leader you have to be knowledgeable. Make the effort to look for these opportunities”, says Flavia Kalule Nabagabe, Chairperson of Young African Leaders Initiative, RLC East Africa- Uganda Chapter.
We all have a responsibility to mentor and nurture young people around us, whether by placing young people at the center of leadership, policy and governance activities or empowering young people economically. A mentor can be anyone who assists another in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.
NGOs like MEMPROW, FEMRITE, ZIMBA WOMEN, UWOPA and many others have already embarked on mentoring young women to become leaders in their fields. In schools, we have teachers like Catherine Nakabugo, a teacher of Math and Science, who mentors her students to establish a number of successful school businesses that help them learn valuable life skills as well as strengthening their academic skills such as Math through working on the accounts.
It’s important for all Ugandans to be part of the mentorship cycle. Being a mentor does not imply that you are an expert. It’s sharing the experience we’ve gained with those who are in a position that we once were either as an individual or as an organiation. Each one of us, man or woman is where they are because in one way or the other, someone guided or shared advice with them. It is our duty to reach out to the young women in our communities and offer the same hand by mentoring them.