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Paving the way for young women engagement in agriculture

 

The MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit was a convening of giants and experienced agricultural practitioners in Africa and its sub-regions.

It was a formal affair where requests were made, research findings were shared, contacts exchanged and long lasting relationships were forged. I was selected as a youth delegate and the 3 -day interactive conference will go down in my memory lane as one of the exceptional summits I ever attended.

Growing up in a developing economy, our ear drums constantly received the good news of “agriculture is the backbone of every nation's development”. This is not a quote that encouraged my participation and involvement in agriculture. My strong interest revolves around youth and gender (women) development and this has been my life and work experience for the past 7 years. I have worked extensively with women in rural areas, in the public health and natural resources and have explored the interrelationship between wealth (agriculture and natural resources) and health (general wellbeing). Though the continent has seen major projects in promoting gender equality and mainstreaming, I wanted to use the summit as a unique opportunity to interact, know and share my experience in promoting women empowerment in agriculture and agri-business especially in remote areas.

The exceptional Pre-Summit session

One of the exceptional qualities/characteristics of the YAW Summit was the pre-Summit conference organized and hosted by YPARD. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that this is my first professional development summit that has consciously encouraged the involvement of its delegates right from the word GO. It was a great opportunity to meet virtually through webinars with other participants and know more about other delegates.

From building strong communication skills, networking, the conversation about how to make the best out of the summit, giving and receiving feedback, all the youth delegates were fully prepared for the 2-day conference and summit. Personally, I knew I was bound to make lots of networking mistakes such as “listening selectively and impatiently, to talking more about myself and jumping right straight to asking my network about an opportunity or a request”- a common blunder that most amateurs like me are bound to make. Body language, tone, and making a pitch was one of the most defining moments for me.

On the first day/ pre-summit conference, we got the opportunity to intensively practice these essential skills with other delegates. From Ethiopia to Ghana, we explored the essence of diversity in team building, engaging on different levels and learning how to give and receive feedback from each other.

Mentorship beyond the Summit

Deemed as my greatest gift of the year, I was highly privileged to be matched with a mentor on the YPARD YAW mentorship program. My mentor happened to be one of the senior delegates attending the summit and it goes without saying that I have always been a strong advocate for mentorship at all levels for youth and most especially young girls.

“Mentorship is proven and powerful driver for professional, entrepreneurial and business development” YPARD YAW Mentorship resources

 My mentor was very prominent in assisting me to make the most out of the summit. Before the beginning of the summit, we had the opportunity to talk about my expectations for the summit.  My mentor, a University Professor, and researcher showed keen interest in how I can make the most out of the summit, highlighting my post-summit experience and activities. As an aspiring academician and diplomat, it was all joy to be paired with a seasoned academician with a strong international development background. We have both begun working extensively on shaping my purpose road map. The pre-summit preparation/webinars prepared me sufficiently in learning how to be open-minded, receive feedback and critic positively. These are essential pocket tips that are key in forging a long lasting and positive relationship with my mentor.

“We cannot underestimate the power of mentorship in encouraging young people’s involvement and participation in Agriculture” Alesia Ofori-Gender Panelist YAW 207

Mentorship, in general, is important in encouraging young women most especially engagement in agriculture. As a former president of a women’s group in my alma mater, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Ghana, my team and I effectively used mentorship to facilitate young girls in senior high schools’ involvement in natural resources and agriculture, subsequently increasing the number of girls’ enrollment in the agriculture and natural resources program.  With immense assistance from YPARD, my mentor and I are working towards my goal of becoming an independent researcher in the field of natural resources management, agriculture, and rural development. We have clearly outlined monthly goals and tasks and defined strategies on how we can both work at achieving them.

In summary, I will express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to YPARD and the MasterCard Foundation for such an important opportunity for my career and professional development. I will urge all readers to actively participate and be involved in YPARD national activities to benefit from their initiatives and programs. With my involvement with YPARD and YAW 2017, I am currently a proud representative of YPARD in my region in Ghana. To all who are looking to step out of your comfort zones, I will end by quoting a saying that was popular during our pre-summit conference;

“Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

Photo credit: Illume for The MasterCard Foundation