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US, Nigeria partner on structured mentoring programs for women

By Vera Sam Anyagafu and Elizabeth Uwandu

US Consul General to Nigeria, F, John Bray has expressed US readiness to partner Nigeria on structured mentoring programs for women, saying that the need to develop future leaders through several structured mentoring programs is quite imperative.

Bray said this at the just concluded US Public Affairs Section’s program on structured mentoring with the theme, ‘Transforming the Future: Women Mentoring Women in the Workplace’, while recognizing the  need to take steps in ensuring that leadership was both ethnically and gender diverse, as well as provide a mechanism for knowledge sharing between the old and young.

“US Department of State is committed to advocating for and including women in the workplace both in the United States and abroad. We want to connect our rising stars with leaders, top performers, and others.  And equally important we wanted to provide a mechanism for knowledge sharing between older and younger employees.

When I joined the Department, the State Department workforce was 27 percent, most of these people doing clerical work. It is now 40 percent, but still not the 50 percent we are committed to achieving. Through structured mentoring programs run by Executive Women at State and our Human Resources bureau we are working to increase the number of women in line with our goal of having a workforce that reflects the makeup of US society,” Bray said.

He added, “To support women internationally, we established the office of Global Women’s affairs in 1995 and have assisted women to achieve senior positions in both the private and public sector as a priority. One of the many programs that we have includes the Global Women’s Mentoring program.

“I know that a number of Nigerian women have participated in this program and Darcy is well-qualified to share this mentoring program with you.  She was elected to the board of the Executive Woman at State where she actively participated in mentoring women.  Additionally she was selected by the Director General of the Department of State to lead training for the Human Resources department’s 600 employees on structured mentoring for everyone.”

However, US Public Affairs Officer Darcy Zotter, while addressing a number of challenges, on how best to implement a formalized program of woman-to-woman mentoring, roles of the mentor and mentee, as well as tips for maintaining successful mentoring relationships, said that, the program was meant to encourage women.

“We want our workforce to be 50 per cent women. In order to do that, we train, retrain and encourage them. Mentoring is well known to Nigerians and what happens in Nigeria is what we call informal mentoring.  We want to introduce people to formal mentoring programme in line with what American companies use. 71 per cent of companies in America have structured mentoring programme.

“It enhances the bottom-line. It’s a one-time training and the US has given everyone the tools that they need, they have the information so that they can launch their own structural mentoring programme”, Zotter submitted.

Also speaking on challenges, Associate professor, Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan (UI), Dr. Olajumoke Morenikeji, said she learnt it is not only enough to mentor informally, but there is also the need to have a structural mentoring system in place.
“I think this will work very well in a sector like the education, where you have lots of issues with students having several issues that they have to deal with.

If you have a structural mentoring system, you will know what to do at a particular time. There will be no shying away from your responsibility. For example, a student comes to you and to say he or she has been sexually harassed, if there is a structural mentoring, there is something you have to do for that kind of situation.

There’s a rule that you have to report, but if it is informal, you might want to just kindly help or just nurture and that might not help as much as trying to do a structural mentoring,” she noted. , adding that, research has shown that structural mentorship would work effectively for women than informal mentoring if Nigeria gets it right.

Director, GYMT Fashion Academy and GYMT Foundation, Princess Kelechi Oghene, said it is quite challenging dealing with people, but amidst that, she said, “We have trained about 300 women in our mentoring programs and it gives me some sense of fulfillment knowing that I am able to empower as many women as possible. I am optimistic and I will leave a legacy,” she added.


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