This mentoring program is of great help especially for young people because it helps us find our way on our own. We don’t necessarily have the time, energy or someone to talk to about our concerns and help resolve them; which can damage our work; but with this program we can realize what our shortcomings are and try to turn them into strengths. FrancoSix Mentee
Since October 2019, unabridged has been involved in a valuable project with FP2020 – a global partnership to empower women and girls by investing in rights-based family planning and advancing access to modern contraceptives for all girls and women who want to use them. To better support youth family planning champions in a subset of Francophone countries where FP2020 works, FP2020 partnered with unabridged’s Mentoring Exchanges program to develop the FrancoSix mentoring program. Let’s meet some of the partners:
FP2020 is a global partnership that advances the fundamental right of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children to have. More than a billion young people (aged 10-19) live in low and middle income countries and too many experience limited access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health care programs that responds to their needs due to discrimination, stigma, and lack of information. FP2020 supports ‘Youth Focal Points’ (YFP) in 47 priority countries in Africa and Asia. Youth focal points are youth leaders (18-29 years) committed to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in their countries.
unabridged and Mentoring Exchanges
Mentoring Exchanges is a bespoke mentoring service created and managed by unabridged. It carefully matches mentees with mentors to provide support in the areas of professional development, focused on developing and sharpening their management and leadership skills. Our mentees are global development professionals (often in resource-constrained settings) who are matched with experienced international executives and academics for mentoring to enhance their leadership and professional growth. In partnership with FP2020, a youth mentoring program called FrancoSix has been developed and launched.
Through the FrancoSix Mentoring Program, Youth Focal Points (YFPs) in six Francophone countries (Burundi, Madagascar, DRC, Cameroon, Chad, Haiti) receive mentoring via Skype or WhatsApp over the course of one year. Additional support is also provided through regular ‘learning labs’ – webinars to explore requested topics in greater detail (e.g. public speaking, communication, decision-making).
The primary goal of FrancoSix is to enable YFPs to effectively and powerfully advocate, network, outreach, communicate and disseminate evidence around adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR). The mentoring program helps the young leaders to achieve their full potential through:
- Improving their communication skills to advocate for youth issues and priorities in ASRHR.
- Increasing their networking and alliance-building skills.
- Improving their resilience to navigate challenges when advocating and advancing ASRHR issues.
Their mentors are experienced French-speaking professionals with management and leadership experience in a variety of domains who want to give back and contribute to society. These mentors are volunteers who give of their time freely to the program and attend regular mentoring skills building events. Our mentoring supports the YFPs as they transition from being young professionals to career professionals and continue advocating for ASRHR as they advance.
The YFPs are often juggling a variety of responsibilities: study, work and family responsibilities, in addition to their representational duties. They require strategies and techniques to manage their time effectively, to prioritize tasks and manage multiple priorities. They are tasked with speaking up and speaking out, representing their peers and organization, discussing issues, challenging the status quo, and advocating for ASRHR. Effectively representing young people’s ideas and priorities in sometimes volatile political contexts can be stressful, frustrating and depleting. YFPs need emotional resilience and support, recognizing and celebrating milestones on the way to their goals. The YFPs’ responsibilities require certain skills and experience, from impactful communication to building and leveraging networks. Mentoring helps to develop and practice a diverse set of skills.
How mentoring can help
Working with a mentor can help to address some of these issues, tackle challenges, and prepare young people for their professional roles. They receive support for improving and utilizing new knowledge and skills such as time management and prioritization, having difficult conversations, and coalition building. Their learning and development are achieved through experience sharing, preparation, practice, experimentation, and role-play. Working with a mentor also develops emotional intelligence (EI) skills – particularly social and organizational awareness, resilience, and relationship management skills. This is useful in the face of challenging tasks, people and situations, and in helping to navigate the political context with strength.
What we know so far…
A review conducted after four months was very positive. Sessions occurred regularly; participants were happy and found the program enriching. Mentees felt increased self-confidence as leaders, reported feeling less isolated and stated that they were developing both professionally and personally. All were delighted to be in the program, seeing it as a marvellous opportunity.
Palena Neale, founder of unabridged, recently attended the FP2020 Francophone Focal Point Workshop in Dakar (2-5 March) to deliver a mentoring session, and she gathered further feedback from participants. Mentees shared their:
- Delight that a mentor helped them to prepare for a job interview which led to a full-time job.
- Appreciation that a mentor helped them gain important ‘outsight’ by surveying others’ perceptions of their interventions and leadership style.
- Gratitude for a mentor’s help to overcome difficulties in defining and articulating their professional development objectives.
- Gratitude for having someone to listen to them and be a sounding board for their ideas.
Win-win for all
The mentees are developing both professionally and personally, finding new ways of thinking, and are benefiting from their mentors’ experience and know-how. Some will become mentors in their turn. Moreover, their skillset for delivering FP2020’s priorities is improving, furthering FrancoSix’s success in promoting the agenda for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights. The mentors for their part enjoy partnering with the next generation of leaders, sharing their experiences, and learning in the process.
Not only does mentoring provide a win-win development opportunity for mentors and mentees, it contributes to the wider Sustainable Development Goals that touch on promoting health and well-being, gender equality, strong institutions and partnerships.
For more information on Mentoring Exchanges, see our Mentoring page.
Also, if you like information on our leadership coaching program please download our brochure – Women’s Leadership Coaching – For Women in Development – specifically designed for women working in global development.
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LinkedIn: Palena Neale