When she launched out into the workspace, lady mentors were hard to come by. All the mentors she came across were men. Not that it was a bad thing, sometimes it takes a woman to understand another woman. “So why was it hard coming by a lady mentor?” This question drove Noeline Kirabo to become the mentor other women would turn to talk to.
For this journey to succeed, she had to go out of her way. She had to get professional and do things the right way. She had to create a brand that would appeal to the women. She had to invest in herself to qualify for the assignment. For this to fall in place, she founded the New Generation Mentorship Program (NGMP) specifically cut out to offer mentorship to women in the market place. At first, her focus was on the young woman (25-30) but she found out that that bracket was limiting since most of them were just starting out in life. The bracket was widened up to 40.
As a teenager, Noeline found herself talking to her friends on different topics of life. She had a gift of using words that would endear her colleagues to her. As a church girl, it did not occur to her that she was doing something tremendous. She thought that was all good church going girls did for each other. In her adult life, she enrolled for a long distance course in Counselling and Family Therapy and practiced for six years after by mainly offering probono services and a few paid clients.
Every other day, we learn a thing or two about ourselves. During her tenure as a family therapist, Noeline realised sitting behind the desk was not her kind of thing. She was footloose. She wanted to be in action. She felt she had more to offer than being on her desk. That is how she joined civil society. But even then, the call followed her.
She was approached by women from different circles asking to be mentored. All her excuses yielded no fruit. There is something they saw in her that she didn’t yet none of them was about to call it quits.
This army of seven women who did not even know each other pushed the buttons so hard that she gave in. All her conditions were met with ease and in time, she was running the first cohort of a mentoring class in 2016. “This is something I stumbled into.” She confesses. NGMP was birthed out of this forced relationship and it has since grown in leaps and bounds.
Today, the programme caters to 100 women every year with an ever growing circle of an alumni network who pick up other women. Ms Kirabo believes mentorship should not be a competitive space. Instead it should be a growing space where each woman mentors another.
In a world where boys are groomed to become leaders by taking on harder roles and girls the easier ones, it comes with a lot of intention to undo this conditioning. Many women at their workplace would prefer to sit back than go forward and claim their space. They don’t want to be seen as imposing or otherwise. With her programme, these stereotypes are addressed and dealt with. “Mentorship closes the gap. It unlocks the mind. There’s need for more women in the market place than there ever was.”
Ms Kirabo is encouraged by the fact that she is both running her race and building a community of brave women who are not limited by the various transitions in their lives. To see more women thrive at the workplace is something that dearly thrills her.
Looking back on the journey of life, for a girl that struggled with a low self-esteem, being able to lead women into tapping into their full potential is a tale worth telling. Noeline often thought she had nothing meaningful to say in public, today, she is using this past experience which limited her to encourage other women to stand up and be counted.