As a Binti Shupavu Mentor, I mentor girls, develop leaders and transform communities. Mentoring at AfricAid means inspiring, motivating and encouraging young girls and sometimes it means being a supportive adult presence, which many young Tanzanian girls in the educational system often lack. Building life skills and leadership qualities is integral to the program, as are the personal relationships that develop while we do this. This is all part of what makes being a Binti Shupavu Mentor a very fulfilling and worthwhile experience.
Mentors, who for the most part are Kisa Project Alumnae, find employment with AfricAid a place to continue to learn and build their leadership skills. Practical work experience helps them grow career-wise and is an added incentive to work as a Mentor. In Tanzania it is difficult for fresh graduates to get a job unless one has experience. AfricAid trusts every program graduate is capable if they are given the necessary support to grow. Likewise, during the two years of the Kisa Mentor contract and one year of the Binti Shupavu Mentor contract, AfricAid gives as much support as it can to help Mentors pursue their careers and give them real world experiences in the office environment. For example, whenever a Mentor is having an interview for a new job, AfricAid provides coaching and there are ongoing Job Readiness Programs throughout the year.
“AfricAid helped me in different ways to get my new job. First it helped me build skills on developing good relationships with adolescent girls, especially with girls in rural areas, which has informed my current work for Africa School Assistance Project (ASAP). Through the Binti Shupavu Curriculum, I learned how to believe in these girls and how to motivate them do better and reach their dreams.” Violeth is now working as Kupanda Project Manager at ASAP.
A common question Mentors have at the beginning of their job is how long it will take them to develop positive and supportive relationships with Scholars and how this can be done. With personal commitment and capacity building trainings such as Counseling Training, Mentors are able to overcome different challenges emerging with the new job and assume new, complex responsibilities.
“To be honest, I had difficult time thinking how I can talk to 40 students and make them understand the concept, but this became easier once I knew that being a Mentor is more than just a teacher in the class. It’s being a sister, a helper and even a counselor whenever possible. Training sessions made my job smooth and enjoyable as well. Through those sessions, my confidence in class kept on improving as the days went on. I also got to adopt new and simple techniques for dealing with my mentees and knowing them in detail.” Irene is now working at Tanzania Revenue Authority as a Tax Officer.
Mentors view an important part of their role as advocating for their Scholars rights. They are most proud when they have gained a girl’s trust so that she opens up and shares her personal challenges. This often results in a stronger bond between a Scholar and her parents.
“Through my first year of mentoring in 2017, it was good to learn so many new things that I didn’t know: living with people at the office, how to interact with students and school administrations, the best way to mentor girls and be there when they need me, understanding challenges they go through and being part of solutions to those challenges. Some of these challenges included drop outs, truancy, negative responses from parents like not allowing their children to attend Binti classes, and not getting enough support from teachers.” This experience has helped Theresia to do her job better in her second year of Binti Shupavu mentoring at AfricAid.
One key aspect of AfricAid’s culture is reflection on what we are doing. AfricAid aims to help Mentors grow personally and professionally. The feedback helps Mentors identify skills they are good at and areas they should put more effort into.
“The feedback sessions made me realize the areas that I am very good at (but didn’t know that I’m good at.) And also they helped me understand the improvements that I have to do to continue to perform and develop.” Salma is a former Binti Shupavu Mentor who has shifted to the role of Kisa Mentor.
In just the last year, six Mentors (Kisa and Binti Shupavu) have succeeded in finding new jobs at different organizations. All of them are still part of the AfricAid family, supporting AfricAid’s mission and using their new networks to help with AfricAid events. It is never an exaggeration to say that being a Mentor is a joyful way to transform futures of young girls around the globe. It is an experience in our lives that we all value.