A key component of WONDER’s work is our mentoring, and the individual support each woman and girl receives in our projects.
We believe that education on its own is not enough to help vulnerable women and girls learn and succeed. Mentoring plays a key role in empowering women.
What is mentoring?
WONDER defines mentoring as a relationship between trained volunteers or professionals with women and girls in our projects. Over time, the women and girls we work with can gain the resources, skills, and confidence they need to develop personal agency and thrive. This positively impacts their economic, social, and personal wellbeing.
In a series of structured meetings, the mentor will work with a girl or woman to:
- Understand and assess each woman/girl’s strengths and needs
- Set and monitor individual goals
- Recognize achievements
How does mentoring support women and girls?
Many of the women and girls attending our programmes have experienced, or continue to experience, various traumas and stresses that lead them to live in what we describe as “survival mode.”
For example, many of the women and girls attending our programmes have suffered stress due to bereavement. About 40% of women and girls in our African projects have suffered the close death of both parents, and 60% of one parent or guardian. Other stress factors include poverty and displacement, and in the most extreme cases, violence and assault. Often, women have experienced more than one of these stress factors.
These stress factors, along with poverty and adversity, prevent women and girls from developing the capabilities they need not just to survive, but to thrive. Living with constant stress, and being forced to make decisions with limited resources, can damage an individual’s cognitive and executive function. Executive function and self-regulation skills are important for people of any age: they enable people to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, control impulses and plan ahead.
In other words, science suggests that poverty and stress compromise the very same skills and behaviour most necessary for people to lift themselves out of it. However, mentoring helps women and girls rebuild these core capabilities, self-regulation and executive function skills through:
- Providing training in specific self-regulatory and executive function skills aligned to the environment and context in which they will be used (work, home, college)
- Teaching strategies for reassessing a stressful situation and considering alternatives
- Teaching strategies for recognizing and interrupting automatic responses, such as intense anger or frustration, to give more time to activate intentional self-regulation in stressful situations
- Creating a “multiplier effect,” which helps women and girls see how small actions and successes will make a difference
WONDER’s work on mentoring
Mentoring allows students to build soft skills and negotiate the immense personal changes that must occur for a girl with few opportunities while living in poverty to become a professional woman with the confidence to take initiative.
In 2020, WONDER began partnering with EMPath, an NGO pioneering trauma-informed practice based on research from the Center of the Developing Child. Our partnership with EMPath has allowed us to access their training and resources, which we have adapted and shared with our partners. This in turn has allowed our partners to reflect on our mentoring practice, and pilot the EMPath method in a number of different settings.
Feedback from our partners’ staff, students, mentors, alumni and their family members points to the centrality of mentoring to the success of our projects. You can read about the experience women have had working as mentors in Kazakhstan, and Côte d’Ivoire. Recent projects that have focused on mentoring include, but are certainly not limited to:
The FATIMA project empowered 255 women migrants in four EU host countries: Poland, Slovenia, Spain and the UK. FATIMA was a huge success, exceeding our targets in supporting the integration of the migrant women and mentoring played an integral role to the success of the project.
Red:GLOW supported 1,000 disadvantaged young women across 6 EU countries (UK, Spain, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia and Italy) to inspire and support young women’s leadership and participation as active and thriving citizens. Red: GLOW allowed us to see the role of mentoring with young people, and inspired young people to be mentors to others, creating a cycle of change.
The successful use of mentoring within our projects has led us to hire our first mentoring learning coordinator, Jacqueline Wambua. Jacqueline is based in Kenya and has previously worked with our partner Kianda Foundation. Her role will be to:
- Share best mentoring practice with all our partners (18 countries) supporting them to adapt WONDER’s materials for the local context
- Create and share resources
- Raise awareness and encourage wide uptake of good mentoring in development projects
Through the use of mentoring, WONDER aspires to empower each woman and girl to thrive and develop agency in their own life. This is a sustainable means of poverty reduction, which addresses the problem at its source and also puts the person as the leader in their own development.