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A Mentorship Program for Strong(er) Female Students

7 October 2021
Dr. Mandy Hlengwa, a passionate senior lecturer from Rhodes University in South-Africa, shared her personal journey towards becoming a mentor for many young female students.

“I felt uncomfortable for many years with the idea that I was lucky. Why is it that other students who were just like me, who were experiencing similar adversities, didn’t have access to any type of support and didn’t finish their degrees. Why was I “lucky”?”  

With these words, the Nuffic-funded Engendering Mentorship (e-GEM) project was kicked-off. Dr. Mandy Hlengwa, a passionate senior lecturer from Rhodes University in South-Africa, shared her personal journey towards becoming a mentor for many young female students. Educated women contribute to the productivity and economic growth of their country. Additionally, they tend to be better informed about nutrition and health, which results in a higher quality of their own health as well as their children’s health. Unfortunately, many young female students do not complete education.

This became evident in the high drop-out rates of female students at Maseno University, our partner university in Kenya. To address this issue, we initiated the e-GEM project, in collaboration with Maseno University and LakeHub. The objective of the project is to develop a mentorship program at Maseno University that will support female students dealing with the challenges that they encounter. Some of these challenges include early marriage, pregnancy, and gender-based violence. It is expected that having a supportive and enabling organizational environment at the university will result in lower drop-out rates for these students. Stronger female graduates will enter the society and contribute to a better world.

During the kick-off, participants engaged in discussions on various elements of mentorship programs. For example: How do you deal with the gender difference between a mentor and mentee? Is it better to have one mentor or to change over time? How do you keep a distinction between being a friend and a mentor?

After this session, multiple participants expressed interest in becoming a greater part of the project activities. The kick-off closed with the participants feeling inspired, with positive energy and great enthusiasm.