AWARD polled its 216 mentors—both women and men—from 11 countries to find out why they volunteer their time for a year to mentor an AWARD Fellow.
“I want to be part of any progressive service to enhance the capability and competitiveness of women in sustainable development. AWARD is a positive phenomenon, full of energy, energizers, passion, focus, and hope. It is a value-for-money venture for its donors, mentors, fellows, facilitators, and beneficiary institutions.”
– Professor L. O. Sanni, Department of Food Science & Technology, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria
“One of the reasons that I became a mentor is that, in my own career, I realized that most of my mentors were men, and that senior women tended to be more competitors than mentors. I felt strongly that women should be helping other women grow.”
– Jan Low, Regional Science Leader, Sweet potato, Sub-Saharan Africa, international Potato Center, Kenya
“I am an AWARD Mentor because it is an exciting and fulfilling experience to work with young, ambitious women who will be responsible for driving Africa's agricultural development agenda in the not-too-distant future.”
– Professor Victor Chipofya, Executive Director, Institute of Water and Environmental Sanitation, Malawi
“After being an AWARD Fellow myself, I wanted to be a mentor in order to pass on my positive experience and to motivate others as I was motivated and inspired to aim high, gain confidence, and have the courage to take risks. My first surprise as a mentor was the positive effect that I had on my mentee and the motivation she had after each time we spoke. That was a huge motivation for me to try harder to help and inspire her.”
– Dr. Maria Alexandra Jorge, (former AWARD Fellow/current AWARD Mentor), Genebank Manager, Forage Diversity, International Livestock Research Institute, Ethiopia
“A champion who does not raise other champions is not worth celebrating. As accomplished scientists, our work will be evaluated by the number of scientists we raise and the value we add to their lives to help them achieve greater heights. Mentoring is an opportunity to train female scientists and to bridge the gender disparity gap in leadership and the scientific community in Africa.”
– Professor Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana
“I accepted the invitation to be an AWARD Mentor without realizing that I would gain so much in the process. The program develops the skills that compliment research work. It strengthens and nurtures talented women to reach their full potential. I am an AWARD Mentor because I could clearly see and experience the development of a young researcher's confidence, focus, and vision, and because I see the need for more sensory food scientists in Africa.”
– Professor Riette de Kock, Department of Food Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa
“In 1987, after I successfully defended my PhD thesis at the University of Dar Es Salaam, my two mentors and friends were keen to have me take a teaching position at one of two prestigious American universities. I did a one-month study tour and visited the universities.
My verdict was that Africa was the best place for me to follow my dream of contributing to scientific development and leadership. The rest of the world would be best suited for collaboration.
As a young African scientist, research, teaching, mentoring, and working in agricultural and ecosystems research and development was my calling. AWARD has inspired me even more, as I proudly remain in and work for African development and capacity building.”
– Professor J.B. Okeyo-Owuor, School of Environmental Studies, Chepkoilel University College (Moi University),
VIRED International, Rabuor Environment and Development Centre, Kisumu, Kenya
“I am passionate and committed to contributing to empowering, and therefore creating, a critical mass of transformative women scientists and leaders, who will play their roles effectively and champion the development of communities in a holistic manner. AWARD provides this unique platform on which great women and minds are cultivated and mobilized for change.”
– Dr. Margaret Jesang Hutchinson, Senior Lecturer and Head, Horticulture Unit, Department of Plant Science & Crop Protection, University of Nairobi
“A mentor is expected to use her experience to guide a mentee academically, culturally, and socially. Nature hates a vacuum, so as a mentor, you search for more knowledge to replenish your own brain in order to enhance your mentoring ability.
Mentors also get value-added information from their mentees; both the old and young trees make a forest. My mentee and I worked together to enhance our visibility and our impact on our environment. How gratifying it was to me when she was commended for her academic excellence during her role-modeling workshop. My desire to expose the rich, untapped talents of an African woman scientist was fulfilled in my mentee, who demonstrated exceptional academic ability during her advanced science training in with CIRAD in Montpellier, France .”
– Professor Olusola Omueti, Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria (Retired)
Current Director of Nutrition, Nigerian Heart Foundation
“I chose to be a mentor so that I can assist younger scientists to reach the peak in their chosen careers. Having reached the position of director as a scientist myself, I want to give younger women ideas on how to plan their research effectively, and to solve problems that arise either from research or planning methods. I also want to impart ideas about assertiveness—how to get what you need without compromising your integrity. Mentoring helps me to enable other women to reach leadership positions. This gives me great joy, as well as helping my mentee to achieve her life purpose.”
– Dr. Elizabeth Ekpo, Director, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria
Several AWARD graduates have become mentors for future rounds of AWARD Fellows.
“My vision in life is to be a transformational, inspirational leader worthy of emulation; a goal setter, an achiever, and a builder of lives. A leader is not successful without a successor, and being an AWARD Mentor is a good platform for me to achieve this by mentoring upcoming generations of women scientists.”
– Dr. Bolanle Otegbayo, Senior lecturer (former AWARD Fellow/current AWARD Mentor), Department of Food Science and Technology, Bowen University, Nigeria
Throughout history, African village elders have shared their knowledge, passing on what they know to the next generation. AWARD mentoring builds on this tradition. Every fellow is carefully matched with a senior professional who serves as her mentor for one to two years. Together, they set their goals and meet at least once a month.
Hundreds of Africa’s most senior leaders in agriculture—both men and women—volunteer their time as mentors to AWARD Fellows. In exchange, mentors are offered the opportunity to participate in two of AWARD’s special events, such as courses in leadership or research proposal writing.
During the second year of an AWARD Fellowship, fellows reach a new level of experience. As part of the AWARD program, each fellow mentors a junior scientist in her institution, “sharing forward” what she has learned. This creates a ripple effect, spreading the benefits of AWARD to yet hundreds more young women.