Mentoring as a Tool for Sustainable Development among the Youth

by Dr Oritseweyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye, Mentor, GHMe 2020


A definition of youth mentoring by Rhodes (2002) is:


A relationship between an older, more experienced adult and an unrelated, young protégé--a relationship in which the adult provides ongoing guidance, instruction, and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the protégé.

There is a significant role for mentors to play in understanding diverse approaches needed to work with young people, provide support and in creating opportunities for impactful youth development. Evidence suggests that mentors thrive well with young people when the approach is taken is all-encompassing in building sustainable relationships, fitting into specific contexts of the match (e.g., personalities, communication preferences and youth’s developmental stage).


My Mentoring Expreience

As a paediatrician who works in global health involving an intersection of young people, nutrition, education, and WASH; I have previously mentored girls aged 10-29 years belonging to the local communities of Nigeria. It was called the Community Girl Project and ran its course for four years covering a few Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as quality education, climate action, good health and wellbeing and clean water, sanitation and hygiene run by the Coastal and Marine Areas Development Initiative.

To continue forward with the foundations I have made, I came across Global Health Mentorships in my third year as a PhD student. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and skills with young people interested in specific areas of global health and gain new knowledge as well as insights about personal growth and development from students and young professionals. Thus, my first experience with GHMe was an eye-opener to the world of formal mentoring and the role of the UN’s SDGs in bridging the gaps of personal and professional development among young people.


In 2020, I became active with the intent of engaging young people across various social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. I centred my blog posts, tweets, and Instagram posts around personal and professional development together with using my life experiences as a focus. I discovered the growing need for a space to talk about career, health, and faith among young people.


AN SDG MENTORING PROGRAM

With insights from my co-founder, Oluwatoyosi Bakare of an environmental education platform for climate action called ActionGX, I was able to draw up a four-week personal and professional development mentoring program in August 2020, for senior secondary school students and leavers, those currently in their gap year and undergraduate students. The engagement with this program came majorly from an African audience, especially Nigerian youth.


The four-week-long mentoring program had planned activities such as identifying one’s values, leadership, critical thinking, and discussions, making presentations on topics related to the SDGs and an opportunity to be paired with an external mentor wherever possible. Young people agreed that WhatsApp was an inexpensive and convenient platform for the program. Modules were shared on the group weekly with tasks assigned to individuals, with some cases, requiring teamwork.


Some of the challenges of the program were commitment by participants for the entire duration. 21 participants enrolled for the program, however, towards the conclusion we had 8 who successfully completed the modules with all activities. A few participants (4) used their parents’ phone to access the program, so information was not passed on to them. Others gave feedback on not committing wholly due to their tight schedules, a lack of relevance; and the active silence of some that occurs in joining an online group without participating even when privately contacted to understand why.


I believe these challenges are faced because many young people do not yet understand why mentoring is an important aspect of their lives; one could link it to foundations of development and learning. It is peculiar to all young people especially those from the LMICs (low-middle income countries) due to family background, financial situations (for example, a lack of access to a personal device and the high cost of data usage especially when video-conferencing calls are needed during such programs; and the need for physical connection (face to face) as they are mostly used to.


With the positive feedback received from 8 participants, it was suggested that the group be retained for accountability and future networking purposes. Since September 2020 till date, we have continued to keep the group alive as a “Moments with Dr Weyoms” Group for accountability, sharing various opportunities that seem relevant to young people motivating them to participate in events, scholarships and programs that will improve their personal and professional development. Interestingly, we have found an active poet who currently organises and participates in various literacy events and is a senior secondary student who organised a music concert in a local city in Nigeria with her friends to promote musical talents. We also came across a newly inducted medical doctor from Kenya who is actively involved in public health.


FUTURE PLANS

I decided that with the volunteer team I have set up utilising my recently awarded grant by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, I would engage them not only in matters of research work but in mini mentoring (engaging one to one with few members of a large group, tailored to their specific needs ) to support their personal and professional development.


Improving the lives of young people lies crucially on how we design mentorship programs. I believe these programs can incorporate various SDGs through mini-projects/activities. Whilst mentoring is mainly focused on building leadership, public speaking skills or being more aware of oneself and career pathways; creating deliverable projects that address the targets of various SDGs is a way to raise awareness about these goals and give room for mentees to design, create, develop and where possible deliver local and/or global solutions to socio-economic issues.


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Thank you to Dr Oritseweyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye for your valuable perspective. For any inquiries related to the GHMe Blog, please contact our team at globalhealthmentorships@gmail.com

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