Last night I received an email which brought tears to my eyes and filled me with a sense of awe. A young woman whom I met through LinkedIn several months ago surprised me by sharing some great news. She had just completed an online digital program as in intern with Ananke Magazine. Through this program she developed new skills in digital media that will help open doors for her future career and build her self-confidence.
But what really touched my heart was how empowered and connected she now felt to a global sisterhood, “During the internship I joined girls from other countries to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls. We advocated against gender violence and we included a ‘Girl not Bride’ campaign.
She was undeniably proud of her success in the program and enjoyed partnering with another young woman from Pakistan. The two new friends had a final task to accomplish in their internship term. They joined a twitter campaign aiming at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Their campaign urged the UN to involve more women and girls when developing SDG goals that pertain to females. I felt the heat of her passion for justice and her new sense of power surging from her email.
The Power of Connecting with Others
Aderonke was astounded at how each favorable event built onto the next, “You introduced me to Sabin Muzaffar, and one good thing led to another. I am proud to be mentored by you.” One connection can lead to many opportunities; like a web, our threads fan out into gorgeous, interconnected circles. We have no way of predicting where one silvery thread along that web will ultimately reach. Don’t underestimate the possibilities.
Be Willing to Mentor and Pay it Forward
When I read the word ‘mentor’ I felt strange because I never thought of myself as Aderonke’s mentor. I assumed that as a mentor, I would need specific skillsets and experiences in a particular field. I have discovered that this is untrue. Much like how women tend to underestimate their value and talent when applying for jobs, I was doing the same thing, but in the context of mentorship. What is essential is a willing heart and mind to help. I guided Aderonke to EmpowerWomen.org where I knew she would find a supportive community and free learning platforms. That is where I found direction as an advocate for women and girls. I then introduced her to a few people that I hoped might advise her further.
I couldn’t help Aderonke with the technical skills she needed to support her economic growth. I couldn’t connect her to other interns that she could collaborate with on exciting, relevant campaigns. But Sabin could, and just like in a relay race, we pass the baton forward. Because there are so many in this race, we are always waiting to receive a new baton, and again pass it forward. We want to win this race together.
Ask for Help
I admire Aderonke’s pluck at reaching out to me, a stranger, over social media and seeking my help. Asking for help is a powerful action to take. When you ask for help, you will find like-minded people who are searching for ways to stabilize and empower others. Maybe not many will head your call, but you may only need one that will create momentum. I was searching for opportunity to empower women and girls, and that is how I connected with Empower Women. Through that platform I made treasured friends around the world like Sabin Mufazzar, Ananke’s founder. Sabin is also Aderonke’s mentor now as she has guided her next steps toward her future and connected her to more people offering support.
Use Everything You’ve Got
I am now energized and inspired to mentor more young women. In fact, I recently became a mentor through the Aspire Foundation for a young, non-profit Director of Development in Chicago. I’ll leverage my experience and relationships that I have made as a UN Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment to help her. The wonderful humanitarians and advocates for justice that I now call friends are a rich resource of knowledge and expertise. They are interested in collaborating on important issues and they are generous in spirit. I will draw from my life experiences to encourage this young woman and mother in her professional development. But I know that I too will learn from this experience, and I look forward to it. I will also encourage her as a female friend because emotional support is essential in life. We can’t be our fullest, greatest selves if our hearts are weary. Friendship fuels us and replenishes our wells.
The Future is Female
Together, WE Will Create a New World for girls and women. Don’t worry about what skills, resources, expertise or contacts you lack. If your fire for impacting change is burning within you, align with others whose hearts are also burning to foster change. Reach out to people who are doing the work you want to be doing, be daring like Aderonke was. When we collaborate in unity of purpose, all of our skills, experiences, and connections will create a powerful, unbreakable network to propel girls and women globally. This is how WE Do It!