The British Asian Trust and BT have an ambitious three-year CSR partnership that aims to empower 100,000 adolescent girls across India through innovative tech-based projects.
These projects are improving outcomes for girls during the critical stage of adolescence, across health and agency, education, and economic opportunities. In addition to working with the young girls directly, partners also work with critical stakeholders, and gatekeepers in the young girls' lives to drive change in behaviour and attitudes, to create an enabling and safer environment for adolescent girls.
Looking to Learn
Stella, who is an employee at BT and Kajal - a second-year commerce student - were matched in late 2020. Both of them are part of the BT supported Mentor To Go programme - a technology enabled mentorship initiative that aims to help young girls from low-income families access career mentorship on the go, using just their mobile phones.
Young girls like Kajal are provided with a tiered, personalised mentorship programme to determine and improve their work readiness, followed by access to training and internships. Mentors are drawn from leading corporates, such as BT.
Stella is part of a pilot group of BT UK staff who have signed up as mentors with the programme in India. Kajal is interested in pursuing a career in the field of commerce but as no one in her personal circle has a similar background, she thought Mentor To Go would be a good avenue to explore. For Stella, this mentoring programme is a unique opportunity to engage with a much younger mentee who is from a different socio-cultural background. She regards it as a way of giving back, but also as a chance for her to learn from college students. She said: ‘I am aged 55 and have a huge curiosity to learn. Mentoring helps that, and I feel I have 29 years of industry leadership to share’.
DIY for the Perfect Match
Kajal and Stella have bonded over their shared love of commerce. During their sessions, they talk about Kajal’s future plans, possible challenges and the various interesting topics Stella introduces as part of the ‘Do It Yourself’ sessions.
Kajal’s father runs a small wholesale shop of Betel leaf and her mother works alongside while also taking care of household chores. Kajal shared that: ‘I have so many plans for my career so that I can be independent and also proud. I had many confusions about what I should do first and after that what; we discussed those.’
Kajal and Stella are bonding really well together and their ages and cultural differences have not presented any barriers to their relationship. Quite the opposite in fact. Stella finds that this experience has challenged her ways of thinking. She shared: ‘The mentoring programme has challenged me to be self-reflective about very important topics such as values. My initial perception before we started interactions was to expect a little immaturity to begin with, but what has surprised me about my interaction with Kajal is her focus, self-awareness and forward planning for her life. The determination to achieve. Such maturity when I compare with some of my UK apprentices of similar age.’
Stella thinks that Kajal and she are a perfect match and their shared interest in commerce has helped: ‘I think the [Mentor To Go] structure is logical, thought-provoking and I love the balance of the free flow DIY sessions. These have been great in getting to know my mentee,’ said Stella about the programme.
Being the Change you Want to See
The close bond developing between the two has helped Kajal feel comfortable sharing about her personal life as well: ‘My mentor is so nice, she guides me not only for professional aspects but also personally. We discuss the sessions, activities and also a little bit about our family and our relationship with them, and also some problems that we have in our lives,’ says Kajal who also went on to say: ‘These sessions have developed self-confidence in me. My mentor also tells me many values and things, like how we should act in [the] office or with employees. I have overcome some of my fears which I had previously, and now I am able to do any work.’
Stella’s work ethic has also been a source of inspiration for Kajal: ‘She also motivates me a lot. She is so hardworking: she completes her task on time and when our meeting time clashes, we change and she wakes up in the early morning just for my sessions so that we complete our programme. At this age also she is always motivated to learn more and more which inspires me also.’
Stella encourages her peers to become a mentor as well:
’Please sign up! This is so rewarding for mentor and mentee and I hope we can help make a difference.’