Leveraging Mentorship Programs to Improve Educational and Psychosocial Outcomes for Young Girls
Updated: Aug 17
Mentorship is the process of helping and giving advice to another person, typically less experienced. Mentors typically take the time to understand the challenges their mentee is facing and then use their understanding and personal experience to help the mentee improve.
Young people experience various challenges in navigating the world today, and mentoring may be the key to helping them navigate these challenges. Research suggests that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in various personal, academic, and professional situations. At a secondary school level, mentorship has the power to impact the course of students’ academic and personal life trajectories. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development and social and economic opportunity.
Beneficial mentoring activities for students
Individualized Goal Setting: Assessing academic progress, setting short- and long-term goals, and developing an action plan help students develop a universal set of skills. These skills include goal setting, adaptability, and reflection, which are necessary for success in college, career, and life. An essential component of mentoring sessions is self-reflection, which gives students the chance to build awareness around their ability to set and follow through on appropriate academic and social goals. Students who practice individual goal-setting and reflection over time are better able to accurately assess their strengths, as well as recognize and act on areas for self-improvement. 1
Relationships Built on Trust: Mentors empower students and serve as thought partners on their academic journey. They express understanding of students’ aspirations and fears and provide their support. A reliable routine mentorship allows students to build an honest and trusting relationship over time through regular communication and mentor-student meetings. 2
Networking: In secondary school, mentorship can help students find a career path and connect with the right people and resources to support their advancement. Affluent students often have the chance to network with successful individuals and find mentors to help them jump-start their future careers. However, less-affluent students often lack those networking opportunities and having a mentor can help them along the way. 3
Does mentorship work?
Studies have proven the positive impact that mentoring has on students, including greater self-esteem and self-confidence. In America, youth report that formal mentoring programs provide a variety of benefits; most commonly, they receive advice about school and get help with school issues and/or schoolwork. 4
Mentoring can help youth through challenging life transitions, including dealing with stressful changes at home or transitioning to adulthood. Structured mentoring relationships tend to provide more academic support, while informal mentoring relationships tend to support personal development. In the latter, mentors convey advice and encouragement to help students make good decisions, follow the right path, and stay motivated. 5
Mentorships that last for a significant portion of time (i.e., more than one year) are central to success. The longer the mentoring relationship, the greater the value for youth. A 2014 study in the USA revealed that 67% of young adults found their structured mentoring relationship very helpful if it lasted one year or more, versus 33% when the relationship lasted less than a year. Longer relationships are stronger relationships. 6
The survey also revealed that mentored students have better school attendance and a better chance of going on to higher education.
Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class. 7
Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. 8
More than three-quarters (76%) of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half (56%) of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. 9
Building a sustainable mentorship program for young girls in Nigeria
Give Girls A Chance (GGAC) focuses on improving educational outcomes for girls. From its inception, mentorship has been a key component of GGAC’s programming. Over the past five years, GGAC has provided scholarships and mentoring to over 100 girls in Abuja and Borno State, Nigeria. Once enrolled in the program, in addition to receiving full tuition support, fees, books, and uniforms, each girl is paired with a mentor.
GGAC mentors are typically professional women with a passion for girl-child education and community service who commit to engaging with the girls on a bi-weekly or monthly basis to provide advice and support on issues the girls may be facing in and outside of school. Initially, GGAC mentors met with their mentees on school grounds and at GGAC-sponsored events and excursions. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, GGAC pivoted to include remote and/or digital services, which allowed mentors outside the target locations (e.g., other states in Nigeria and countries outside Nigeria) to participate in the mentoring program. Mentors and mentees leveraged paper and digital communication, including letters, emails, phone/Skype calls, and pre-recorded messages sent via GGAC’s coordination.
Mentoring girls in STEM
Traditionally, women have not been represented in large numbers in STEM careers. With encouragement and positive role models, girls realize there is no limit to what they can do and that they have as many options as the boys around them. Strong mentors are crucial to enabling girls to envision a possible future. When they see it, they believe they can be it. Girls should be encouraged to discover and develop their strengths and not be limited by society’s expectations. Girls must receive the message that there are no limits to what subjects they can study or what careers they can pursue. 10
GGAC is currently partnering with Canon Education to layer on a mentoring component to their one-week summer STEM program for 50 girls in Lagos. Alongside receiving instruction on the use of various design tools, GGAC will provide mentorship support in the form of career coaching, personal branding workshops, and motivational sessions. In addition, surveys administered before and after the program will be used to determine the impact of mentoring on encouraging increased participation of girls in STEM fields.
The future of mentorship programs for girls
Mentorship programs provide girls access to people, places, and things outside their routine environment. Girls are exposed to new experiences that enable them to discover their own strengths and thrive. As girls navigate secondary school, a mentor can profoundly impact her successfully navigating these years. With the help of mentors, girls become more confident and outspoken. The support from role models is birthing the next generation of fearless leaders, who will influence their own lives and make changes in their communities.11 A mentor-mentee relationship provides a protected space for the adult woman and the girl/young woman to connect. When girls and young women see strong female mentors and positive role models, it can help better prepare them to tackle their future with confidence and hope. Supporting mentorship programs will help shape the female leaders of tomorrow and positively influence the trajectory of their lives.
To adequately leverage mentorship programs to improve educational and psychosocial outcomes for girls, including increased and active participation in STEM, key stakeholders involved in the design and delivery of educational interventions for girls, including donors, nonprofits, and educational institutions, must identify touch points where mentorship can be mainstreamed into new and existing programs and delivered alongside other interventions, e.g. literacy and digital literacy training, after-school programs, or menstrual hygiene management initiatives. Mentorship programs or programs with a mentorship component should be designed with consistency and longevity in mind as the benefits to the girls are likely to be sustained the longer the mentorship program and the contact between the mentors and mentees lasts.
To learn more about GGAC and our mentoring program, please visit this page.
1 2 3 Faggella, Lauren. “Why Every Student Should Have a Mentor.” Ed Week, Oct 25, 2017, https://www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-why-every-student-should-have-a-mentor/2017/10.
4 5 6 8 Bruce, Mary and Bridgeland, John. “The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring.” Mentor, January 2014, https://www.mentoring.org/resource/the-mentoring-effect/
7 Blog Post. “How Mentoring Makes a Difference in the Lives of Clubhouse Youth.” The Clubhouse Network, Jan 10, 2019, https://theclubhousenetwork.org/news/how-mentoring-makes-a-difference-in-the-lives-of-clubhouse-youth/
10 Blog Post. “A Critical Opportunity: The Value of Mentoring Girls.” National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, April 18, 2019, https://www.ncgs.org/advocacy/blog/2019/04/18/a-critical-opportunity-the-value-of-mentoring-girls/
11 Girls Inc., Accessed August 1, 2021, https://girlsinc.org/girls-inc-mentors-support-girls-every-day/