Brandy taking photos at the CFG workshop in Kampala, Uganda

Mentorship Matters: Why We Include It In Our Cameras For Girls Program

The girls and young women we teach photography and business skills to have incredible potential, but only if they have the opportunity to reach it. Cameras For Girls recognizes that these females are more than just the students in our program—they’re the future of their countries. To achieve their full potential, they need access to mentors who can guide them through their careers and show them how to use their skills for good in the world around them. That’s why mentorship is part of our 4-phase program and why it matters so much to us that these young women have mentors who will support them on the path toward becoming journalists.

Who are our students at Cameras For Girls?

Our students in Africa come from a recognized journalism and communications degree program. They are either in their last year of studies or have graduated but unable to find work because they lack the tools and skills to succeed.  

Most of these universities that we work with are ill-equipped to provide a camera for each student and/or the adequate photography training these girls require to get a job, either as a journalist or photojournalist.

At Cameras for Girls, our goal is to equip young African women with career and life skills that will help them become valuable members of their communities. The majority of our students live in extreme poverty, but they dream big and aspire to make positive changes in their communities and countries. To do so, they will need mentors who can help them navigate these challenges. That’s why we include mentorship in our program. A mentor can be an invaluable resource for assisting our girls to overcome obstacles and achieve success. At the same time, we provide tools like cameras and training.

Brandy taking photos at the CFG workshop in Kampala, Uganda

Brandy taking photos at the CFG workshop in Kampala, Uganda

Here’s proof of what mentorship has done for some of our students in Uganda.

For instance, Brandy Valentine Azeirwe, a young 24-year-old, took our photography training in Kampala, Uganda, in 2019. Since graduating from a journalism program, she has started two successful podcasts. She is now working with the government to change the path forward for other youth, who have been traditionally silent in the face of oppression.

Vivian Agaba is a young woman who took our training in 2019. She is a journalist for a local paper and is an advocate for women’s voices. She recently accepted our offer for mentoring and is now working with a mentor from Canada, helping her streamline her goals and aspirations. Over the six months together, they will pave a path forward for Vivian to find a better-paying job.

Another one of our mentees is Lebo Mathatha, who resides in Cape Town, South Africa. She recently moved from Johannesburg as it has a better film industry, but it’s not been that easy for Lebo to make her way into the filmmaking community. Her mentor is Cristina Sacco, a fellow photographer and filmmaker in Canada who is mentoring Lebo to find her way.

A Mentor Is a Guide

Since ancient times, mentors have been around when young men (and occasionally women) were paired with adults to learn how to become adults themselves. Whether by coincidence or design, mentors are people who understand that part of their role is to be a guide—not just in terms of career guidance but also in terms of life management. Mentors know that they’re not responsible for any particular outcome. Still, they also understand that they hold a position of power and thus have an obligation to help impart wisdom as best they can. At Cameras For Girls, we choose mentors carefully and ensure that every participant has access to two people willing and able to guide them toward success in their journey.

Mentors have a different life path than you, but they can still be able to guide you in achieving your goals. Through their unique perspective or experience, mentors can help with relationships, personal style, or navigating an industry. At Cameras for Girls, we believe mentorship makes our programs more robust and effective. We strongly encourage our girls to seek mentors outside of our program too. 

Why Mentorship is Essential

Mentorship matters because it gives African women in journalism support, a crucial part of growing a thriving and sustainable industry. The art of mentoring isn’t new; for years, seasoned journalists have become mentors for aspiring journalists who are just getting started in their careers. They provide guidance, skills and friendship to younger colleagues. Young journalists have a lot to learn from veteran peers who can provide insights into how they got their start or even offer tips on overcoming tough times at work. 

Mentorship matters for numerous reasons, but it can be the difference between obtaining a full-time paid job vs remaining in poverty for our girls.

Women-led businesses across Africa benefit from mentorship programs that help female entrepreneurs gain valuable knowledge and insight into running a business or working with others in their industry.

The End Goal of Our Mentorship Program

Mentorship is essential for women looking to break into an industry that hasn’t historically been friendly to them. At Cameras For Girls, we want every young woman who receives a camera to also receive quality guidance as she grows her skills as a journalist. Having mentors helps our students understand how journalism works in different environments worldwide. It also allows them to build up their networks, which can prove helpful when they begin freelancing or launching their careers in Africa. Even if they never work together again, mentors and mentees leave with new contacts and friends worldwide, which is a great bonus to our mentorship program.

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