Talking about strengths is of absolute importance, especially when we deal with the youth, and it is a real must when we deal with promising, high potential young individuals from vulnerable groups. We often do not realise or we tend to forget that we all have strengths that can be acquired and developed
International aid is often rightly criticised. Too top down, too much red tape, too many overhead costs and so forth. Yet sometimes interesting ideas can emerge, and one of these is the Women's Leadership Mentoring Programme organised by the British Embassy in Kathmandu, a very smart way to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child 2021.
Technically I am not even sure if we can consider this initiative as part of the official aid assistance, but it does not matter because it is an innovation that could show the way in terms of future replications and scaling up.
In short, this is how it works: heads of international development agencies in Nepal and ambassadors to the country, all women, will be connected with promising young women that are still very much at the beginning of their careers.It is mentoring, but actually it looks like a coaching programme, and this is the way it should be because the latter methodology is really focussed on achieving future goals while the former, mentoring, is more about sharing experiences and giving advice and suggestions.
Given the considerable differences between a foreign high-level official, like all the senior professionals lending their time for this programme, and the beneficiaries, differences in terms of environments and contexts in which both groups grew up, a focus on the future makes total sense, starting from the strengths that the selected beneficiaries do own.
Talking about strengths is of absolute importance, especially when we deal with the youth, and it is a real must when we deal with promising, high potential young individuals from vulnerable groups. We often do not realise or we tend to forget that we all have strengths that, only partially related to innate talents, can be acquired and developed.
If you are very much at the beginning of your career and you are in the vortex of emotions pulling you to different sides at the same time and if you have to deal with certain aspects of a local culture that are not exactly supportive of a young woman's personal development and at the same time you have ambition and "fire in the belly", things can really get frustrating and very hard to deal with.
Being confused is one thing and quite normal actually, but being constrained by barriers posed by the society that won't allow your self-empowerment is an entirely different thing. That's why this idea from the British Embassy is really fresh air, and it is great to know that it has been embraced by very important and very busy leaders.
Imagine a young woman who is hard working and has big dreams and, perhaps, even concrete goals she wants to achieve. Talents, check; inner strengths, check; determination, check; hard working attitude, check; humbleness, these days a very valued leadership quality, also check.
This young woman that has all the qualities to really emerge and thrive might instead, if neither allowed nor enabled to explore her path and make her own choices, get stuck in a future of mediocrity for the rest of her life. In the worst scenario, and we all know it is very common, lack of opportunities and freedom might mean a life in poverty and loss of interest in life with all the grave consequences that might come.
Nepal like many other emerging nations is so rich in human capital, but it is also shockingly effective at wasting youth 'talents'.
What a pity it is because this country is an incredible rich "mine" of potential that, unfortunately, keeps going wasted.
You see this not only in the ambition of young women who do not have nor have found the "keys" to the right rooms and corridors where they can showcase their incredible capabilities. You also notice it outside the many recruiting agencies that these days are sending local youths for jobs that, for now, can only be found in the Gulf countries.
That's why this programme is a game changer, neither because of its budget nor because of any money to be handed out, but because it tries to offer, even if for a very small number of beneficiaries, a path towards self-realisation and meaningful life. Programmes focused on mentoring and coaching can really make the difference.
In this particular case, the selected young women won't only have exclusive time with their mentor/ coach but will also, if the pandemic permits, be allowed to have one day of "job shadowing" with senior officials and, perhaps, with their own mentor/ coach. In addition, they will be able to attend events and get in the right "network".
This can be really an amazing and life changing opportunity at a very affordable cost, and here is a proposal.
Let's consider this programme a sort of pilot one that, if worked out well and all the indications show that it really might be, can be replicated and scaled. VSO has already implemented in the past a successful mentoring programme at the grassroots level, and there are many other initiatives on the ground that are happening, but much more can be done.
This is an appeal not only to the male heads of development agencies or to the male ambassadors representing their own countries, but this is actually a call for action for business leaders, lawyers, civil society activists so that they can embrace this type of initiative because it can really make the difference .
Imagine if the ten biggest industrial groups were to encourage their executives and managers to embrace mentorship and coaching to support young people with ambition, including those from vulnerable groups like the dalit, sexual minorities and youth living with disabilities. Imagine if members of Lions, Rotary or Global Shapers or members of Round Table would do the same.
It would really be a big deal and make a true difference for the future of this country. Kudos to the British Embassy and all the agencies and embassies involved for modeling something different, a unique opportunity for promising citizens that Nepal is so in desperate need of.
A version of this article appears in the print on November 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.