Patience, empathy and listening: keys to successful mentorship

Close up photo of Oge

Oge Chukwudozie is a safeguarding/protection professional, with over 15 years’ experience in the aid sector. She has worked with different organisations, including Africare, Christian Aid and Save the Children. Oge has worked in various thematic areas such as education, HIV/AIDS, livelihoods, nutrition and emergency response. She is currently the National Associate for the RSH Nigeria Hub.

With the new round of the RSH mentorship program kicking off in Nigeria, I’d like to tell you my experiences and what I have learnt from managing the mentorship program.

The mentorship goes for 6 months and aims to support organisations to strengthen their safeguarding systems and practices. The RSH works with both external and internal mentors and we help them support their organisations on their safeguarding journey.

"How are they supported?" you may ask. This is by training, supportive supervision and reference to materials, or in many instances developing resources that meet the needs and gaps experienced on the ground.

Imagine a mentor asking for tools or resources to help in risk assessment and management or resource to train Board members, or material to support the Human Resource or Monitoring and Evaluation unit to understand their role in safeguarding.

Then you may realise that the needed resources may not be available or don’t fit the Nigerian context. And while there may have been gaps, I’m proud to say that the RSH has developed and is still developing tools and resources that meet the contextual needs of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria.

Group photo of the first group of Nigeria mentors
Group photo of the first group of RSH Nigeria mentors

After the onboarding training of the mentors, we plan to have consecutive trainings that are driven by demand and not cast in stone.

Our values such as learning and innovating, collaborating and co-creating; prioritising local expertise and putting power, privilege and intersectionality at the centre drive our ways of working.

Many mentees have described their safeguarding experience as a journey from known to unknown. Some felt they’ve known all there is to know in safeguarding before the mentoring but as they’ve progressed, they’ve realised that there is more to learn and actions to be taken. There is always something for everyone on the safeguarding journey.

Mentorship is a means of capacity-building or do I say capacity-sharing, as both mentor and mentee learn, and as is a win-win situation. For effective capacity-strengthening, understanding, patience, tolerance and empathy are needed in addition to listening and communication skills. Mentoring isn’t a hierarchical relationship like that of boss and subordinate, but one built on respect for all, realising that everyone has something to bring to the table.

Capacity-building should be led by the organisation in need, as only then will there be real commitment and ownership.

Group photo of the second group of Nigeria mentors
Photo of the second group of RSH Nigeria mentors

Though capacity-building may not come directly with funds but it sure opens up the organisations to more opportunities to receive funding when the systems are in place. The leadership should be committed to capacity-building as this is most important for safeguarding. As the localisation agenda is gaining ground in the humanitarian space, local organisations need to be able to take the reins…

A total of 11 mentors have been trained to support 19 CSOs spread across 10 Nigerian states for the second batch of the mentorship program in October 2021. I am excited as we continue to make an impact on the safeguarding architecture in Nigeria.

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