A new Commonwealth initiative to empower young women leaders has been marked with a regional launch in the Caribbean.
The Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship Scheme matches aspirational women aged 18 to 29 with experienced mentors, who provide support and guidance to help develop their careers.
More than 50 mentors and mentees have already been matched through the scheme from among more than 700 applications.
The initiative was launched in March by the Commonwealth Youth Council in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network, Rotary in Canada and Rotary in the Caribbean.
The scheme begins with a six-month pilot in the Caribbean and the Americas, but will include a small number of mentees from Africa, Europe, Australia and the Pacific. It is open to Commonwealth citizens between 18 and 29 who have demonstrated leadership in their careers or in community projects.
The regional launch in Guyana on 21 July at the residence of the British High Commissioner in Guyana brought together more than 40 young people and representatives of the government and diplomatic community.
“This scheme represents a collaboration of wisdom and innovation for the empowerment of young women. It is conceptualised, designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated by young people,” said Commonwealth Youth Council Vice-Chairperson for Inclusion and Engagement Angelique Pouponneau.
Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, head of Gender at the Secretariat, said the mentorship programme built on the commitments made at last year’s Commonwealth Women Leaders’ Summit. At that meeting a call was made to create a Commonwealth mentoring programme for women and girls to support them, enable them to realise their ambitions and increase leadership involvement at all levels.
She said, “I am delighted that the partnership between the Commonwealth Youth Council, Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network, and Rotary International, in close collaboration with the Secretariat, is pursuing this initiative to support more women to achieve their goals. The mentorship programme will help to open the doors that all too often are closed for women and young female leaders, particularly when it comes to leadership roles.
“Through this intergenerational partnership, girls and young women leaders will be able to gain the experience and relationships that will better equip them to progress, have their voices heard and pursue their interests as equal participants in sustainable development at all levels.”
Tishana Narine, from Guyana, said was “proud” to be among 14 young women from Guyana to be matched with mentors. “I feel very enthusiastic and excited for sessions with my mentor. I hope to utilise this opportunity to the fullest in an effort to develop myself and achieve my goals through the guidance provided,” she said.
Patrice Douglas, another of the successful applicant, added: “It was amazing to be surrounded by women who are leaders in their field. I left the launch motivated to be my best self and to take as much as I can from the mentorship programme.”
Judith Diment, Rotary Representative to the Commonwealth, said she was delighted that the scheme is now underway with the support of Rotary Clubs providing mentors. “I am sure it is going to be a huge success in empowering many young women throughout the Commonwealth,” she said.
The scheme was proposed at the Commonwealth Women Leaders’ Summit in 2016, and endorsed by Commonwealth Ministers responsible for women’s affairs at their meeting in Samoa later the same year. It was formally launched at the Commonwealth’s headquarters, Marlborough House, in March 2017.
Learn more about the Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship Scheme.