Welcoming New Mentors: A Conversation with Asimwe Suedi, GLAMI Director of Programs
Last month, Asimwe Suedi, GLAMI Director of Programs, joined AfricAid for a conversation on Instagram Live about the new class of Mentors that joined GLAMI this year to lead Kisa Project and Binti Shupavu classes throughout the 42 Partner Schools where GLAMI operates.
Asimwe has been with GLAMI for six years, joining the organization in 2015 as a Kisa Mentor. In 2017, she was promoted to Binti Shupavu Project Manager, and this year she stepped into the role of Director of Programs, where she now oversees both of these mentoring programs.
During the conversation, Asimwe addressed the role of a Mentor, the process of interviewing and onboarding new Mentors, and spoke about the unique ways that Mentors are themselves mentored as part of their time with GLAMI.
Let’s begin with the role of a Mentor. What does a Mentor do?
AS: We all know a Mentor is someone you look up to, a role model, or someone you can have hard conversations with. So the role of the Mentor is to provide guidance to the girls who have been recruited into the program. We have two approaches, the first is through our program curriculums, where the curriculums are contextualized to have a variety of experiences that girls get to go through together with the Mentors. They’re able to see experiences of other people from all over the world, and they can develop some of the skills and knowledge from those experiences that will be applicable in their lives. The other approach that we use is through conversations that girls have with their Mentors about shared experiences, which helps them realize that the situations they may be going through have been experienced by someone else. They give each other the courage that there is always an alternative path through any situation they can take to reach their goals. So the Mentors’ primary role is to provide that guidance to the girls that have been recruited to our programs.
One of the unique aspects of the GLAMI model is that these young women also receive mentoring themselves during their time as a Mentor. Can you speak to this and the critical skills they learn?
AS: So with our program, a Mentor is with the girls in the program for two years specifically, because one of the approaches we are using is helping out our [alumnae] who have been in the program get an opportunity to work in the program so that they are able to develop skills that will help them in their future career plans. There is often a challenge with employment, most people look for people who are more experienced, and we saw this as an opportunity to use the [alumnae] who have been through our programs as Mentors for two years, so that they can develop skills such as work efforts, facilitation, communication, and be able to solve problems in their next careers.
How do you translate career skills so the Mentors can really learn and apply them in their future careers? Do you provide access to speakers, or coaching?
AS: So it’s a combination. Within our programs for mentoring, we have special trainings for mentors before they start their role. They get to be trained so that they can easily work. For example, with work efforts, we understand they’re graduates from universities and at work, so there are a lot of expectations and roles that they’re expected to perform professionally. So we get to outsource people who train them on things such as effort, facilitation skills, communication, but also through the two years that they get to work within the program, they’re able to implement skills that they have been trained in practically. Also within the organization we have a program called peer-to-peer training where they experience people with different skills and knowledge. We keep training each other and giving each other feedback, and believe this is one of the best ways for us to grow and support each other. After two years, the Mentor is in a position to master most of the skills that are out there in demand.
We were thrilled to learn that 80% of GLAMI Mentors are alumnae of your programming. Can you walk us through the process of interviewing for these positions?
AS: During 2022, we really received many applicants, especially from the girls who have been in our programs. We had more than 150 applicants, and called 60 or 70 candidates for the interview. It was a huge recruitment for us and really needed lots of people who could work together. So the most interesting thing during the recruitment was to hear observations from outside guests who gave us feedback- they could notice the difference between the girls who have been through our programs and those who have not. And I believe even the women who didn’t have the opportunity to join our programs have potential that will be effectively used. So nine of them are new and the rest are Kisa alumnae. I’m so excited for this group because I feel they’re ready and prepared to learn for their future careers. They’re already into giving back to other girls, which is what makes me so excited about this group of young women who have joined us this year.
One difference this year is that Mentors will be teaching both Kisa and Binti curricula, and not be assigned to one program or the other. Can you speak about the training process to get Mentors ready to mentor?
AS: We have procedures to ensure that Mentors clearly understand the organization’s values and beliefs, so that they can see what role they play as Mentors for the organization to achieve this vision. So the first procedure is always to make sure that we have the same understanding that we need to serve the girls who are in the program. And as I’ve mentioned, being a Mentor is providing guidance to these girls; in the process of providing this guidance, we believe there are key areas or key skills that a Mentor really needs to develop prior to developing any kind of relationship with this girl. For example, we focus on making sure Mentors are trained on relationship-building and maintenance, because for the girls to be willing, open, and confident, there must be a relationship between the Mentor and mentee first.
We also develop relationships with other stakeholders such as Scholars’ parents and teachers so they know more about mentoring.Traditionally, mentorship is not a common thing in our culture. So we ensure that these Mentors get to effectively learn how to use student-centered approaches in their sessions.
Through this, Mentors have the opportunity to share their experiences and understand what the girls are experiencing or are exposed to. And then they’re able to come to a common understanding. Apart from this Scholars in the program come from different backgrounds and experience different challenges. So we ensure that the Mentors have gone through counseling training that will help them, even in cases where it may be easier to refer them to a social worker. Those are the key skills that we make sure Mentors have prior to starting in schools. But of course, since our program is like an internship for two years, they leave and another group joins, we make sure all of the best practices that have been practiced by the previous group of Mentors are also inducted into the new group. So we normally invite some of the old Mentors to share their experiences with the new Mentors.
Have classes with the new Mentors started yet? Have you heard any early feedback about how they’re enjoying their new role so far?
AS: A very special thing about this year’s recruitment is that some of the mentees who I had as a Mentor are now Mentors themselves, so that’s something dear to me. It makes this group so special. As I said earlier, we have a lot of Mentors who went through the program as girls, so they’re more familiar with what GLAMI does. So now as colleagues they’re told they won’t be only visiting Kisa classes, but it will be a mix of both Kisa and Binti. So I can feel how keen they are! They are preparing the lessons, getting ready for all of the challenges that they might come across- you can see that they’re so ready to learn and to give their best. They’re really going to make the program bring more impact to the girls. The girls will really be able to benefit from these programs!
Is there anything else you would like to share about the training process or how the year has started that we haven’t covered?
AS: I think this year is the one we have done the most preparation for. We have taken the time to make sure that everyone who has joined clearly understands their role and the plan, as well as the challenges they may face in the field. That’s something very special that I feel we are well-prepared for, to make sure that most of the challenges we have faced in previous years can eventually be minimized or eliminated entirely.
Thank you so much to everyone who is supporting us and is playing their role in a different way! Together we are able to do a lot for these girls.
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