By Mosa Mojonothoane
In a bid to combat gender inequality in leadership positions, Girls for Girls (G4G) Lesotho equips Basotho women and girls with the necessary skills, networks and mindsets to support them in unleashing their leadership potential.
It is a global mentorship program that centres on empowering young girls and women with the courage and skills to run for public leadership. Here mentors facilitate six sessions that focus on equipping mentees with different skills that play a pivotal role when running for any leadership positions. These include; Building trust (in yourself and others), Courageous Leadership, The Art of Communication, Negotiation (Advocating for yourself and others), Public Services and Running for Office, Ethics and Values in Decision Making.
“We believe that Basotho women have the intelligence and competence to create lasting change in their communities and country at large, but the reality is that there are several factors that limit their capacity to do so. While we are currently based in Maseru, one of our overarching goals is to reach to other districts within the country,” said G4G Country Lead and Seilatsatsi Lesotho Co-founder Dr. Itumeleng Buti.
She continued that the plan is to work with young girls and women from all other districts across the country as they continue to grow. “We plan to start multiple cohorts of high school students so that we nurture the courage to run for public leadership among as many young girls as possible. Although our base is Maseru we can support interested women across the country to train as Girls for Girls mentors and help them set up cohorts in their schools and communities. Anyone with the commitment and passion to empower women can join the program,” she explained.
G4G Country Lead insisted that G4G Lesotho Chapter is keen to train women who are interested in joining the program as mentors, saying interested persons can sign up and attend a virtual training session which is held on the last Saturday of every month. After the training, mentors will attend an induction session which will introduce them to the program and help them set up and run a successful cohort. She said a call out for mentors will be done in February.
Dr. Buti informed that the first G4G Lesotho cohort started running in May 2022 and 10 young professionals graduated from the program in December 2022. “This cohort received two supplementary sessions on mental health and career development which made a considerable difference in their outlook on life,” she said, adding that they were equipped with personal branding advice, Curriculum Vitae (CV) and cover letter writing and interview skills.
The Country Lead commended this group for being proactive and passionate, saying they were able to co-create the delivery of the mentorship program as a result. She said they displayed a strong interest in learning from the mentors and interacted with the content of the program as well as the knowledge brought in by the invited expert guest speakers. In addition to receiving mentorship and leadership training, the mentees also reportedly imparted valuable insight into the program.
Seilatsatsi Lesotho Co-founder said their first capacitation programme involved different Basotho experts who were invited to join the program as guest speakers, the likes of Lineo ‘Mile – Seilatsatsi Lesotho Co-founder and G4G Training and Leadership Coordinator as well as ‘Maqhoboshaeane Mohlerepe who is also G4G Country Lead. G4G Lesotho also has partnered with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and will be working with their teen club in Maputsoe and Maseru.
On a question of which age group they are targeting, she noted that teenagehood presents a time when most of our core ideas and beliefs are solidified, adding that for Basotho women, internalizing some of our society’s beliefs about womanhood can be damaging. Dr. Buti said; “It is rare for Basotho girls to be socialized for leadership in their upbringing. To confront this, we wanted to not only implore Basotho teenage girls to challenge these beliefs from an early age but to also provide them with the skills and resources to do so.”
More to that, she insisted on a need to capacitate youth in rural areas who are in dire need of mentorship. “We believe that every woman has the capacity to lead. It is rather unfortunate that most women empowerment initiatives target the empowered. We hope to change this narrative. As we grow, we hope to reach more rural areas. Currently, we have a relationship with Good Shepherd Centre for Teenage Mothers at Sehlabaneng – the center houses girls from different districts,” she said.
For this year at least 100 women and girls are expected to join the programme which will take on four separate cohorts to target four specific demographic populations – young professionals, teenage mothers, adolescent girls living with HIV/AIDS and girls interested in pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The young professionals’ cohort will focus on women between the ages of 19-25 who are either in their last year of university or have just started their careers as young professionals. There will be a call out on various G4G Lesotho social media platforms for those who are interested. Readers are encouraged to follow G4G Lesotho on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates. Dr. Buti also emphasized that they are open to working with schools and citizens who might be interested in running this program in their various communities.
“We work with Girls for Girls Global, which is a team of women across the world, to offer training to those interested in becoming mentors. We help them set up a cohort and support them with all resources they will need to run a successful cohort,” she concluded.
G4G was established in 2017 by a group of postgraduate women at Harvard Kennedy School who were disconcerted by the lack of women in governance around the world. In Lesotho, the program runs under a Non-Government Organization (NGO) called Seilatsatsi Lesotho. Seilatsatsi Lesotho is an NGO based in Lesotho that was founded by young Basotho women.