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Dreams turn to reality

A mentor network in a socially disadvantaged neighbourhood in Odense, Denmark helps young women with an ethnic minority background to realize their ambitions when it comes to education, spare time, career and network

Trough the last five years, KVINFO's mentor networks have been a great success. Experience shows that the "professional friendships" between women has a good effect. One third of the women that have a mentor get a job within one to two years, and many start an education. For a long time KVINFO has wished to also capture also the interest of the youngest women, but to start with there was some trouble with engaging this target group in the mentor networks.
Therefore a special project has been initiated, My Own Way, which develops and targets the existing model so it specifically fits the 16-24 year old women.

Hard to go new ways

KVINFO's focus interviews have shown that particularly the 16-24-year-old women with an ethnic minority background struggle with other challenges than women in the age-range of 30-40 years.
Many of them have parents that are not integrated in the labour market, some have big responsibilities at home, and others experience that they want something else with their lives than what their parents and surroundings imagined.

For many, it is out of their usual comfort zone to meet with a total strange woman and talk to her about your personal problems and wishes. Consequently, it is harder for this group to get started with and sustain a mentor relation. A part of the solution to this is that a project coordinator provides extra support in the beginning of the mentor event, since it has become obvious that there is a need for a closer contact between the coordinator and the mentee,

Another good initiative is that the participants become a part of a network with other young women from My Own Way. The network meets approximately once a month and the mentees and mentors participate in the planning of the activities. A good example of activities could be courses in conflict resolution, choice of education, or job seeking.

A good example

18-year old Hana Mohamed is a great example of a young woman who have benefitted from the mentor network. Hana finished high school last summer, and she is planning to study biomedicine at the university. Hanas surroundings have had a hard time understanding her academic ambitions and her plans of going abroad for a semester. Her mentor Mette Hansen, who is the daily manager of the Career Centre at South Danish University, has been a great support. Mette has helped Hana look realistically at her possibilities, and find the ways that fit her best.

Twenty young women with an ethnic minority background are well on their way in the mentor network sparring with each of their mentors. Before the two-year project period comes to an end the plan is that 50 mentor/mentee pairs have started and that 75 percent have completed a 10 month mentor program.