3.3 Mechanisms for Mentoring and Support Systems

Role models and peers are important influencers in young people’s lives, as youth test different behaviors and attitudes. Studies of the adolescent brain have shown that youth need to explore different pathways and behaviors as part of their development process exposing disadvantaged youth and girls to successful entrepreneurs offers them a glimpse into the world of work and enterprise that they otherwise might not have available to them, while offering examples of pathways youth can follow to succeed. When such mentoring or peer support is provided in an enterprise setting, it also allows youth to gain and practice skills that increase their chances of success, by provided targeted support while increasing confidence.

Camfed, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the ILO, and IFAD offer different models and lessons by which such support can be provided to youth while also meeting the needs of girls and young women.

Lesson Learned No. 1: Youth enterprise groups and cooperatives are a good means of offering peer-to-peer support, while meeting other needs.

In 2011, the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the International Movement of Catholic Agricultural & Rural Youth (MIJARC) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched an experiential research initiative, “Facilitating Access of Rural Youth to Agricultural Activities”. Through an initial global survey of over 400 community-based organizations, they found that for both young women and young men the leading constrains were access to land, finance, markets and education, as well as the overall enabling environment. Cooperatives and group enterprises were identified as effective means of addressing these constraints, while also offering youth peer-to-peer support. It also allowed girls to interact with boys and build confidence, through the peer support they received from other girls in mixed sex groups.  

Lesson Learned No. 2:  Mature, experienced mentors can supplement peer-to-peer support when a youth enterprise has specific technical needs.

For Camfed, peer-to-peer relationships are, similarly to the FAO program, the underlying foundation of its programs. Camfed targets poor young girls, who without support would be unable to attend school. Camfed pays these girls’ school fees and other essentials they may need to attend school, while providing training or the other support so that the girls can find employment or start up an enterprise upon completing their education. An important element of the model is Camfed’s Cama Network, which links these girls together to provide one another with encouragement and peer support. Since Camfed’s founding in 1993, these girls have been shown to develop supportive relationships with one another that last for many years.

Camfed has found that for many of its young women as they grow into enterprise ownership, they have additional mentoring needs that peer to peer relationships cannot always meet. For these women, Camfed is now exploring how to effectively foster relationships with experienced businesswomen, who can assist with technical expertise and other linkages. Table 1 below documents Camfed’s experience, illustrating the that peer to peer relationships can meet most support needs, while being particularly effective as girls can establish meaningful relationships with peers who have similar backgrounds.

Table 1: Camfed's Foundations for Effective Mentoring

 

Peers

More Experienced

Trust: Safe Space and Honesty  

X

X

Connection (Similar Background)

X

 

Encouragement

X

X

Empathy

X

X

Problem Solving 

X

X

Expertise

 

X

Connections

X

X

In Ghana, Camfed is testing how it can foster mentoring with experienced women entrepreneurs for young women who live in rural areas. For example, in one pilot, Camfed has linked rural entrepreneurs who are engaged in food processing and marketing with a successful woman entrepreneur in Accra who operates a large food processing business and markets her produce to larger scale grocery stores. The young women connect with her via a mobile phone at regularly scheduled times for mentoring sessions, with Camfed covering the phone charges. The pilot is still underway, but initial challenges Camfed is exploring include:

  1. How to incentivize experienced business women to become entrepreneurs? Do they need to be compensated financially?
  2. How to identify such experienced mentors at scale?
  3. For what length of time should these relationships last?