The Commonwealth Women’s Mentorship programme first pilot scheme was officially launched Friday evening at the British High Commissioner’s Residence.
This programme was conceptualised at the Commonwealth Women Leaders’ Summit in 2016. The scheme is delivered by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Commonwealth Youth Council; the Commonwealth Youth, Gender and Equality Network and the Rotary in Canada and the Caribbean.
Approximately 70 persons will benefit from the Commonwealth Women’s
Mentorship Scheme. Of that number, 14 aspiring young women from Guyana will be matched with experienced professionals in 14 fields.
Commenting on the programme, organiser Angelique Pouponneau, Vice Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, said that mentorship was essential for boosting the economic position of women. “As a young woman myself, I understand the importance of having someone to provide guidance and advice….to progress in your career.”
British High Commissioner Greg Quinn questioned the gathering in his opening remarks, “How can change be sustainable or beneficial if half of the world’s population is excluded?” He spoke of his childhood, and how women played a vital role in his life: his sister and mother. The High Commissioner reiterated Britain’s commitment to “further the cause of equality and to advocate for this in Guyana.”
He said he would “continue to condemn domestic violence which is prevalent in this society. So, gender discrimination is just as unacceptable as physical or emotional abuse.” He added that men must be educated, but women too; it should be reinforced that “there should be no barriers to what they can achieve”.
The mentoring project starts with a six-month pilot in the Caribbean and the Americas, and will include a small number of participants from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. It was opened to Commonwealth citizens between 18 and 29 who have demonstrated leadership and drive in their careers or in community projects.
Both the mentees and mentors were urged by High Commissioner Quinn to “gain as much” from the programme. Some of the mentees are Elon Alonzo, Devina Roopnarine, Chevaunne Perreira, Lisa Hussain, Sara Henry, Leanna Kalicharan, Kadija Murray, Shivanie Rampersaud, Saunssey Profit, Satwanti Baburam, and Loeta King.
Dr Joy Wilson, Elon McCurdy, Evie Kanhai and Sharon Patterson also spoke at the launch.
Dr Patricee Douglas, a mentee of the programme, explained that her volunteer group, SRHR Adventures seeks to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health and human rights, with a special focus on family planning and contraception in Guyana.
She stressed that “you do not have to be rich, or have lots of money to make a difference”. Her organisation is self-funded, with the aid of a grant that she won last year (120 Under 40 family planning competition). It was while doing a ‘Women Deliver Young Leader Programme’ that Douglas uncovered the statistics of unplanned pregnancy, and became passionate to alleviate this issue. “Guyana has the second highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean and South America; 97 out of every 1000 young ladies ages 15 to 19 become pregnant yearly,” Dr Douglas stated.
The SRHR Adventures consists of seven young doctors, one medical student and a psychologist. They conduct interactive sessions on abortions, prevention of adolescent pregnancy, family planning, and other related issues. They have also recently launched an awareness campaign for the HPV vaccine, Gardasil.
One of the mentors, Elizabeth Cox, said it was important to “ensure that the next generation is prepared to take on the new challenges that our world will face, they can benefit from our mistakes”. She has committed to aiding the mentees towards becoming successful entrepreneurs, and looks forward to sharing her experiences.
This mentorship programme has been designed to ensure that the wealth of people within the Commonwealth, who are willing to commit their time and experience share their knowledge with the younger generation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 202, Pouponneau said.