When we began this journey last year as graduate students at the Harvard Kennedy School we dreamed of a world where more young women would have the same opportunities we did to build confidence, courage, and develop skills to take on public leadership. We knew that professional mentors and personal support networks had been important to each of us and wanted to help replicate that experience for others.
2017 has been a year for brainstorming and experimenting. It has been a tremendous learning experience so far and an honor to connect brave, bold, and inspired young women with resources and wonderful mentors. This is just the beginning and we are grateful that you have been with us from the start.
What we did in 2017
Over the last six months we piloted mentorship circles in Iceland, Malaysia, Mexico, Uganda, and Uzbekistan. Here are some highlights from these programs:
Project Girls 4 Girls (G4G) pilot was launched in Uganda in July at Mary Repartrix Girls Secondary School in Entebbe. The Pilot engaged 60 girls aged 15–18 and brought together mentors from various fields in public service, the private and nonprofit sectors. The girls participated in a series of bi- monthly sessions from July to December covering topics including leadership, communications, and negotiations. They were engaged through mentoring circles (8–12 per mentor), discussions, role plays and one-on-one talks. More sessions will be held in the first quarter of 2018 on ethics and values in decision making and on leadership.
Initial feedback from the girls and school leaders show that the mentoring circles have been useful in boosting confidence and providing accessible role models whose experiences the girls can relate to and aspire to emulate their service. The girls have also been excited by opportunities to talk with (not be talked to) the mentors and jointly identify solutions to some of the challenges they face in their leadership journeys. Going forward, G4G will seek to formalize operations at a country and regional level working with established organizations in this field.
Malaysia launched Project Girls For Girls in November and will continue through January 2018. It has started successfully with great support from the University (Kolej University Poly Technic MARA Kuala Lumpur) targeting 3rd and 4th year female students ages 19–21 who are preparing for their next milestone in life: entering the workforce.
Feedback from these 15 young women show that G4G is helping them develop their confidence, skills and support to step up as young leaders for their urban poor communities. Our content and structure help them further hone their potential while providing a safe environment to practice these skills. Moving forward, the Malaysian team is in discussion with the Ministry of Higher Education, Lean In Malaysia and three public universities to expand their efforts, collaborations and impact.
Iceland ran its first pilot from October to December. The mentorship circle included four inspiring women in their early 20s who work and study in everything from TV production to banking and law meeting with two Harvard grad mentors every week to focus on different topics, such as negotiation and leadership, using video lessons from our faculty mentors. Inspired by the experience so far, these girls have now established their own circle of support, which will meet regularly. We are also happy to share that three of these young women are now members of G4G team Iceland and will help build the program and contribute to mentoring high school girls. We’re excited to move from the pilot phase to a fully fledged program this year and start having impact on many more young women and girl’s lives!
What’s ahead in 2018
In the coming year we look forward to making the lessons and tools used in our pilot phase more widely available and building a global mentoring network to support the next generation of public leaders. In 2018 we will be seeking partners to collaborate with as we grow. If you are interested in being a mentor or offering support in another way, make sure to join our email list and you’ll be the first to hear about opportunities to get involved.
Together we can unleash the potential of young women and grow the next generation of public leaders!
Amy, Caro, Halla, Ifoda, Izzana, Luma, Shira, Sukhman