Adolescent girls living in rural India are largely excluded from public life and unable to realize their full potential either as individuals or as leaders.
Violence, intimidation and coercion are used against them to reinforce their subordinate status, limiting their opportunities and the decisions they can make for themselves.
In 2006 I became involved with the Goal program in India. This program uses a combination of sports training and life skill education to empower and transform the lives of disadvantaged young women in the area. Since 2006 I’ve developed the structure and concept of the program overseeing its implementation all over the country. One element I’ve focused on that’s integral to the program, in particular, is mentoring.
I was fortunate that I did not have to apply for a mentorship program or search for one on the Internet. My mentors, whom I’ve reached out to with challenges, management issues, questions and guidance in career planning, were mostly part of my network and some in my organization itself. Thus mentoring “Peer Leaders,” the 100-125 girls who complete the Goal program and display exceptional leadership qualities, is an integral aspect of our work.
Most girls in the program have not had any formal sports training in school or played any organized games. The program trains the girls in sports and its curriculum covers four main focuses: communication, health and hygiene, women’s rights and financial literacy. But we believe that mentoring is a valuable tool too.
Our structured mentoring program provides the girls opportunities to build a network that can help guide them with their goals and develop their leadership capacities.
This program’s impact has been tremendous. The girls have become are more confident, better informed and now act as agents of change in their community. They take part in netball league matches, zonal netball matches and state level camps. Pooja Singh of Aali, a Goal graduate, even joined as an intern and has since completed two years at the bank.
I believe that we women leaders Standard Chartered Bank are in a unique situation. We are in roles where we can identify young women with potential and leadership ability, provide them with mentoring and help propel them into the next stage of their career.
Investment in young women leaders is a reflection of our own leadership and will help us increase the pool of change-agents in the world.
Kalyani Subramanyam has been working with the Naz Foundation, an organization committed to raising awareness to prevent the spread of HIV and providing support to those living with the virus, for the last ten years. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management. Kalyani’s experiences working with women with HIV inspired her to want to empower girls. Combining her passion for empowering women and sports, Kalyani became involved with an emerging organization called Goal in 2006.