Women across the world have been celebrated, for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. 

Since its first celebration in 1911, various themes have been chosen and this year is no different. The #Balance forBetter theme for 2019 is a call to action to drive gender-balance across the world.

And one of the global brands which takes advantage of the celebration annually to encourage and make an impact in the lives of women is textiles manufacturer, Vlisco.

To commemorate this year’s celebrations unlike the previous years where brand ambassadors are outdoored, the manufacturing giant will not only adorn women with beautiful, bold and radiant fabric prints but has introduced a programme to teach and empower young women.

The Vlisco Women’s Mentorship Programme – the first edition – aims at impacting in the lives of young Ghanaian women by providing guidance on developing key skills in a variety of relevant areas.

Sourcing entrepreneurial young women from different aspects of the Ghanaian society, attendees will have the opportunity to observe and engage with Vlisco’s brand ambassadors through panel discussions.

The reigning and former brand ambassadors – Edith Uyovbukerhi, Dr Ellen Hagan, Eugenia Techie-Menson and Regina Honu – all accomplished in their various professional fields, will mentor the young women.

Stephen Badu Vlisco

Mr Badu says Vlisco wants to do something different

Marketing Director of Vlisco, Stephen Badu at the launch of the programme stressed the brand’s desire to do more than just outdooring brand ambassadors and hoping other women will take inspiration from their work.

“This year, we think we need to be more relevant and make more impact than we’ve done in the past. We felt the people who need more inspiration are the younger generation.

“They have a lot of fears and challenges, yet a lot of them have ambitions and aspirations so we said ‘why don’t we use these ambassadors who are, really, very successful women in their own right and fields, bring a lot more of the younger women who have a lot of dreams and aspirations and engage them actively by encouraging, mentoring and teaching them some of the tricks of the trade so that they can become successful just like these women’.”

He emphasised Vlisco’s desire to continually empower women, “because when women are empowered, we are empowered too.”

How will the mentorship be done?

Vlisco has selected some 50 young women who will be mentored by the brand ambassadors. Out of this number, another five will be selected after initial panel discussions and each assigned to a brand ambassador for the entire year.

Vlisco mentoring

One of the mentoring sessions led by Eugenia Techie-Menson

Mr Badu said the launch and initial panel discussions will take place in one day but that will not be all.

“We will draw up a programme where these mentees will meet with their mentors every quarter, monitor and make sure that they turn out as we hoped.”

That will not be all, Mr Badu added that these five young women will be closely monitored by Vlisco throughout the year to ensure that whatever they are taught is utilised in the most effective manner.

Founder of the Young Educators Foundation and a 2014 Vlisco Ambassador, Eugenia Techie-Menson, stressed the need for women to be celebrated and empowered.

Vlisco mentoring

The 2018 Vlisco ambassador, Edith Uyovbukerhi mentored another group

She said the Vlisco Women’s Mentoring programme could not have come at a better time. She added that the programme will provide an opportunity for the mentors to both learn and share some of life’s lessons with the younger generation.

“As a society, our learning has always been limited to the classroom and so we have a lot of women who need to be walked through what some of us experienced so that they don’t make the same mistakes we made.

“And so for me, it is almost like giving back and also protecting each other – a sisterhood of sorts.”

Vlisco mentoring

CEO of Soronko Solutions, Regina Honu also inspired this group of young women

She hopes that the mentees will take whatever nuggets that will be shared with them and carry them through their life’s journey, “ I can’t promise that whatever we are going to say will be the best but that they will take whatever will come out of this and shine brighter.”

Dr Hagan shares the same opinions.

As the first Vlisco brand ambassador, the CEO of L’aine Services said the fact that other women have succeeded in their exploits is a guarantee for the mentees to aspire to get to similar positions or be better.

There is no room to make excuses, she said adding that “I feel there is a message that our youth have still not heard and once we understand our issues, then it is like problem half solved.

Vlisco mentoring

Co-founder of Legacy Girls’ School, Ellen Hagan also mentored this group of women

“The realisation that when you are born a woman especially in our part of the world, it is like you have an albatross on your shoulder, you must use wisdom in everything that you do and mentors are able to show the way, pull from above, push from the bottom, encourage, advice and give people hope.”

Quoting the former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who said “the size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” Dr Hagan hoped that the mentees will take with them wisdom that will push them to higher heights.

She hopes that the mentees, after their mentoring sessions will not make the same mistakes those before them made.