Mentoring is perhaps our greatest tool as a global community. It’s a simple but efficient way to connect, to relate and, ultimately, to uncover that which we already hold within ourselves. In the eight years since we launched The Girls’ Network, we’ve seen the ripple effect of this; with mentees positively influencing their communities and becoming confident, proud advocates of equality.
As the National Youth Agency’s latest survey emphasises the disparity between opportunities for young people throughout England, we’re reminded of the absolute need for mentoring in the least advantaged communities.
We’re often asked, ‘why mentoring’ and, ‘why girls’? The answer to both is simple. By nature, mentoring is an accessible tool for transformative outcomes. And our services are made for girls and shaped by women because the landscape is not one of equality. We exist simply because we must. We exist to level the playing field.
Led by the community
There are many conversations taking place about disadvantaged communities and the lack of resources available in those areas. But what we often forget to talk about are the rich aspirations, diversity and skills that exist within them. Mentoring is a simple but effective mechanism for uncovering – and celebrating - those things.
This is the catalyst of what we do: we facilitate mentoring and recruit mentors and girls to bring together, but the delivery happens inside the community itself. Why? Because the people living, working, and learning in their area know best how to navigate it.
When girls have access to women that have navigated the complex landscape of the working world and can see for themselves just how to do it, they are better equipped to overcome existing barriers. So as youth services decline and those opportunities continue to slip away, the essential role of mentoring becomes clearer.
We’re heading towards a sustainable social movement
Eight years into our journey we’re beginning to see the start of a sustainable social movement. One that positively impacts the communities where we work. Through mentoring girls are uncovering their worth and creating their own vision of what success looks like. Essentially, they’re taking the lead. With young people in England’s most deprived areas without the resources of their neighbours, this is vital.
Services may be declining but mentoring remains as a widely accessible, undeniably transformative, tool.
Charly Young is CEO at The Girls’ Network