“A collaboration of wisdom and innovation for the empowerment of young women,” is how Angelique Pouponneau, the vice-chairperson for inclusion and engagement of the Commonwealth Youth Council described the Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship Scheme that connects young female leaders from across the Commonwealth with mentors, both men and women, from the Caribbean and Americas region.
On the 15th March 2017, a call was made from the grand hall of Malborough House for young women aged 18 – 29 years old with some leadership experience to apply to be a mentee for the pilot of the Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship Scheme. It attracted over 700 applications from young women needing or believing that they needed a mentor for personal and professional development.
The official launch of the Scheme took place in Guyana on the 21st of July to mark the start of the Scheme with more than 50 mentors and mentees having been matched. The official launch brought together over 40 people, both young and older, for an inspiring array of interventions and a networking session. Dr Patricee Douglas, a young medical doctor from Guyana, shared her passion for the need for education of young women to ensure they have control over the reproduction and how she has been influenced by her own mentors and now taken a few young people under her wing. Elizabeth Cox, a Rotarian and the only mentor from Guyana, expressed her automatic desire to help others because of all the people who had helped her in her life and why she has committed to spending six months volunteering on this scheme. Cox’s mentee is Mildred Chirwa from Malawi, a young woman passionate about gender equality and combines her time with her own academics, volunteering and is an entrepreneur. Together they are currently working on a marketing plan to diversify and expand her business.
Other speakers included Dr Joy Wilson, a former victim of sexual abuse, shared how incest is one form of sexual abuse that is often ignored yet affects many in our society. Elon McCurdy, the president of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network – Guyana, conveyed the urgent need for environmental leadership and described the work that young people have engaged in to keep the environment clean and promote ocean governance at the level of the individual. Evie Kanhai, a self-made entrepreneur, shared her story of helping young female entrepreneurs to create their own websites to market their products more effectively in Guyana and further afar. Vishal Joseph, a Queen’s Young Leader, and one of the only two men speaking at this event echoed the importance of men in also being part of the advancement of gender equality. Finally, Sharon Patterson, with her many years of experience working with young people, advised the mentees to be good listeners, remain open-minded, and learn as much as possible. She commended the mentors who have selflessly offered their time and counsel to the young people of the Commonwealth.
The photos of the Official Launch can be viewed at the Commonwealth Youth Council’s Facebook album.
To view media coverage from the local press, please click here.