This month we launched a very exciting new program- the Big Sisters Mentorship Program (BSMP) with a two-day leadership training for 60 girls! Having a dedicated, compassionate and inspiring mentor is so important for our girls growing up in challenging and oftentimes unsafe environments. To have an older girl believe in you and pass on valuable skills, knowledge and insights can encourage girls to stick to their dreams and believe in themselves.
Why the Big Sisters Mentorship Program?
GUIU witnessed a huge need to formalize a Big Sisters Mentorship Program when the alumni of the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP) were eager to stay involved after the training program had ended. Many of the girls tell us that they will be Girl Up girls forever, and we wanted to provide them with the skills and ability to excel as mentors and peer leaders in their communities and schools.
The Big Sisters Mentorship Program was established to include outstanding graduates from the AGP as Big Sisters so that they can continue to be a part of GUIU and improve their leadership skills. Each Big Sister becomes a mentor to the girls that are part of the current AGP program and offers them additional support and guidance. Many of the Girl Up girls are in desperate need of positive role models with whom they can relate to and who can show them what they can accomplish if they stick to their goals and make smart decisions.
The Leadership Training
60 Big Sisters from the 2015 AGP cohort were identified and selected based on their participation in the AGP as well as their leadership skills and potential. Before the girls could join the program, GUIU acquired parental consent since it is of utmost importance to include parents throughout whole program process for buy-in and cooperation. Therefore, on September 8th GUIU held a parents meeting to inform them about the program and their expected involvement. The parents commented that they appreciated the BSMP and promised to support their daughters in whatever way possible.
On September 9th and 10th, the Big Sisters came to the Girl Up Initiative Uganda office for the two-day leadership training. The aim of the training was to equip all 60 Big Sisters with the mentorship and leadership skills to act as role models and mentors as well as skills in conducting community outreaches.
On the first day of the training, the girls enthusiastically participated in icebreakers and community activities so they could get to know each other.
The facilitator then engaged them in a reflective moment on their past, present and their visions about their futures. Jamima, one of the Big Sisters shared:
“Growing up in a poor family, life wasn’t good at all for me. I wanted to go to school but there was no one to take me to school because my parents could not afford it. All the same, I never gave up. Then, one day I got sponsorship for my education and I am now at school.”
After the reflection period, the facilitator asked the Big Sisters to brainstorm on what it means to be a mentor and the different ways in which they would mentor others. The girls shared with each other what they thought about mentoring including:
Be the change you want to see
Be confident of yourself
Encourage others and stop blaming the other person
Understand people who have lost hope to live and be patient with them in different situations
They went on to discuss effective skills of mentors and how mentorship and leadership are interconnected.
Day Two focused on personal goal setting. Laurine told the group:
“I want to go further in life with my education and achieve what my mother could not achieve in school.”
The Big Sisters also identified the activities that they wanted to take part for their community outreaches- including music, dance, poetry and forum theatre.
The Big Sisters were separated into two groups based on their school and will continue to work together to produce their outreach performances that touch on specific issues girls face in their communities and schools. Once they are ready, they will organize performances in their school and in the communities for out-of-school youth. Also, when they go back to school next month, the Big Sisters will also be matched with 10 Little Sisters that they will mentor and communicate with on a regular basis.
The Big Sisters Mentorship Program is off to a great start! The girls greatly appreciated the two-day leadership and mentorship training program as a significant part in their journey as mentors and leaders. A huge thank you from all the Big Sisters to the Segal Family Foundation for partnering with us on this life-changing program.
Do you have a mentor that has helped you on your leadership journey? Share your story below!