22 Nov Along The Way – by Roberta Clarke
I was invited by WEDU to meet with young women in a mentorship walk and talk. I had not known of WEDU before receiving this email but no way would I have declined this invitation to meet up with others committed to young people’s development, to women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Mentorship is quite a popular term now for what people have been doing throughout history- supporting each other to learn new skills, new ways of thinking, to open up to other perspectives on life through listening and sharing. The language of mentorship carries with it a certain formality though. It signals an explicit agreement for a relationship which leads to an exchange of thoughts arrived at through life and experience.
This one was about women’s leadership and the young women, all at university, were seeking some dialogue on the “what next of life”. In the talking points brief, I was asked to share my pathway, I suppose my strategies for advancing into positional leadership.
This question forced me to do some thinking as I have not ever aspired be at the top of an organizational pyramid. But it would be true to say that like most people, I wish to have my presence in my world matter. I am interested in influencing, in making contributions towards re-shaping culture and changing institutions to advance equality, justice and peace.
These changes can be accomplished only through the collectivity of individuals acting together in common cause. And so yes, engaging with WEDU was to some extent self-interested. I was eager to meet these young women who themselves are aspiring to have influence in their communities.
The two young women with whom I was partnered, I have to say, are already well on their way. And I was struck by their accomplishments, by the depth and breadth of their vision of the future.
Lin is into her final year of university. Fluent in four languages, she has a political analysis of the transitions under way in Myanmar. Thinking practically and strategically, she plans a small business, one that will give her income to meet her duties while offering employment and opportunities for her community. And she will be going onto politics. She says this while reflecting on the challenges which she will face as a woman, as a young woman. But she is preparing herself to confront patriarchal attitudes, building her skills and deepening her insights. Lin’s future story is deeply connected to that of her community. All of this is clear to Lin and she is only 22.
Noon is from South Thailand. She wants to be involved in the political process and is already in student leadership. There is a fearlessness to Noon. She is not afraid to stretch herself, to grow, to take on challenges, to move away from comfort. Hers is an optimistic and curious spirit. During our walk and talk, Noon asked many questions. She sees opportunities and is undeterred by challenges. At an earlier stage, she left the safety of her home to experience another culture and she took away many lessons but perhaps most importantly it reinforced her spirit of adventure. We talked about the saying, “luck is simply opportunity meeting preparation”. I have no doubt that Noon will be lucky in life.
Meeting people is one of life’s daily gifts. On that Saturday, when we could all have been doing so many other things, we gave each other time. The mentors are an inspiring group and to Mari and Mario and their team, much appreciation for your efforts.
This is a guest post by Roberta Clarke, who was a Mentor at the Global Mentoring Walk Bangkok (Wedu Walk)on November 16 2013. Thank you Roberta for your passion and commitment to women empowerment and for being an inspiring mentor at the Walk. To know more about the Wedu Walk click HERE.
Ms. Roberta Clarke, Regional Director of UN Women for the Asia Pacific
Ms. Clarke is the first Regional Director of UN Women for the Asia Pacific and Representative in Thailand. By profession, she is an Attorney-at-Law educated at the University of the West Indies with Master’s degrees in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford and Sociology from York University. Prior to her career at the United Nations, she worked with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Between 1992 and 1999, she practiced as a lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago. Ms. Clarke has extensive experiences in civil society engagement and was associated with a number of international and national human rights organisations. She has written on violence against women in the Caribbean, human rights, law and development and has strong interest in the area of responses to the needs and rights of women and girls in a concentrated HIV epidemic and of national prevention strategies targeting populations at higher risks. She is married with four children.