Catalyzing New Levels of Transformative Mentorship to Strengthen the Voice and Agency of Young Women Leaders

Studies have found that limited mentorship programmes exist for women in political leadership. This coupled with a lack of systematic strategies to attract and retain young women to join leadership and participate in governance processes continue to hinder young women’s leadership development and the full unleashing of their potential. Some young women have gone ahead to express their failure to assimilate into mainstream political parties because of the deeply entrenched patriarchy and the culture of patronage. One way to redress this problem is by building the self-confidence, political consciousness and agency of young women through mentorship.

Mentoring is an effective way to nurture and achieve advancement in the transformation of society. People who have gone through mentoring usually advance faster, are more productive, and are better accustomed to navigating the complexities of the environment they operate in. Hence it is through mentorship that women leaders can be attracted, retained and groomed to participate and influence governance and decision making processes.  While there is a lot of informal mentorship, it can sometimes be hard for women to tap into these programmes, especially within male-dominated spaces. Women can easily find themselves adrift, trying their best to advance but bereft of effective support.

Evaluations of programmes in Africa and beyond on strengthening women’s leadership have found that training, exposure and mentorship of women leaders and those aspiring have led to women leaders becoming more visible and politically effective. At the individual level, leaders’ have reported a distinct and measurable increase in agency and voice—the core of leadership. Women who had not previously considered themselves leaders, much less activists, reported that they have gained confidence and skills enabling them to influence and engage other women, build solidarity and lead successful change efforts with tangible results at various levels of leadership. Under the Young Women in Leadership and Mentorship Programme, AMwA seeks to bridge the gender equality gap for women in governance processes by enhancing their voice and agency through a one-year mentorship programme rooted in feminist ideologies of sisterhood and accountability.

Having launched the programme with a 5-day Feminist and transformational leadership training for 27 young women leaders, AMwA paired the emerging leaders with seasoned women leaders in the Uganda Women’s Movement to guide them along their leadership journeys. As part of a set of activities to blend the process of their leadership growth, AMwA with Support from UN Women Uganda organized a Mentor’s Orientation Retreat to provide further clarity on the mentorship program, share good practices and pitfalls on mentoring and coaching through personal stories as well as inspire the mentors to support the program.

In an inspirational talk delivered at the mentors retreat by Dr. Naiga Basaza Gudula, a social infopreneur critical thinker, innovator and published writer, mentors were urged to be purposeful in connecting, motivating and challenging their mentees to set smart goals. Dr. Gudula who is also the Managing Director of Gudie Leisure Farm, an innovative agribusiness incubation center promoting practical translation of knowledge into business encouraged the mentors to support their mentees in striking a balance between their various aspirations.  She further emphasized the need for mentors to be grounded in light of their busy schedules in order to prevent burnout and breaking down. Tips on how to boost emotional intelligence such as meditation, prayer and conversations with oneself were shared as means to enable the mentors regain focus, reflect and find tranquility. The discussion also revolved around areas of personal growth that the mentors could support mentees with during the mentorship journey. These areas included aspects of branding, positioning and self-embodiment.

We have to be grounded to grow someone. As we give, we must not lose the connection with the streams that feed us for achieving balance comes from being fulfilled. – Dr. Gudula

By sharing her experience as both a mentor and mentee, our Executive Director Eunice Musiime shed light on the differences between mentorship and coaching and why mentors must differentiate between the two. She also encouraged the mentors present to set goals, expectations and ground rules with the mentees that would smoothen the mentorship process. She also provided an overview of AMwA’s Mentorship Programme and Guide. The mentoring guide is a resource that defines what mentorship is and how the mentorship will be implemented and spells out the roles and responsibilities of both the mentors and mentees, recruiting and matching of mentors and mentees, building relationships, ethics and guidance on ending the relationship.

For you to grow, you must be growing others, through mentorship – Eunice Musiime