African women and girls are often praised for our resilience, but how often is this true resilience, and how often is it a lack of choice that forces us to persevere when we really need to rest, reflect, and recuperate? 

Earlier we read how “resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. And our intention in this section is to empower you, as a youth worker, to understand the challenges your mentee is facing, and to help her develop coping mechanisms for experiences that could be overwhelming in the present or future.

Every African Girl Faces Different Challenges

As a mentor, it is important to be aware of the challenges your mentees face every day to avoid making assumptions and be able to step into their shoes. We may assume that because a girl lives in a certain area, goes to a certain school, or comes from a particular social, ethnic or religious background, that she is experiencing certain challenges or pressures. Whilst it’s good to be informed about the pressures that the young women around us are facing in general, especially so we can ask follow-up questions when girls allude to things in round-about terms, it’s also important not to stereotype. Listen with empathy and an open mind. 

Reflect on the questions:

  • What challenges are you aware that your mentees are facing?
  • How do you know? When did you learn this? Could it have changed since? 

Each of us learns different things from our mentees that inform and surprise us. It might help mentors if you have a shared list of issues that you can refer to, and a list of slang words that young people use to talk about these issues. For example, in Nigeria young women are unlikely to talk about ‘migrating illegally’ but if they talk about ‘greener pastures’, you would know that they could be at risk of making this decision. Keep this list updated – issues and slang change quickly! 

Do you know what resilience is?

Because so many of us have been raised in challenging environments, we may think we understand resilience, or imagine that it is simply perseverance. Answer the questions below and see whether your own understanding is the same as what we want young women to develop through mentoring.  

A. Resilience means:

  1. Keep trying even when things are difficult
  2. Doing the same thing over and over again
  3. Getting annoyed and giving up

B. Resilience means:

  1. Nothing bad ever happens to a person so life is easy
  2. Things go wrong for everyone at some point; it’s how you deal with it
  3. Everything goes wrong all the time so it’s better to give up

C. Resilience means:

  1. If you don’t like someone you tell them and it’s okay to be mean
  2. If you don’t like someone it’s okay to be mean to them if they are mean to you
  3. If you don’t like someone you find a way to tolerate them and get on when you have to

D. Resilience means:

  1. Being optimistic—thinking positively
  2. Being pessimistic—thinking negative thoughts
  3. Just not caring

E. Resilience means:

  1. Taking everything seriously
  2. Being able to laugh at yourself
  3. Having a sense of humour to help you get over problems

F. Resilience means:

  1. Sticking to only one course of action
  2. Being able to adapt and change your plans to reach a goal
  3. Giving up on plans and just seeing what happened

G. Resilience means:

  1. Learning to fail sometimes and not always being the best
  2. Only doing things you are good at
  3. Trying something new but giving up if it’s too hard

H. Resilience means:

  1. Feeling scared but going for it
  2. Never doing anything scary
  3. Pushing others to do something scary

Answers: A1, B2, C3, D1, E2, F2, G1, H1

Did your answers match our answers? If they didn’t think about why, and perhaps discuss this with a fellow youth worker. 

This Link takes you to more information and short videos you can watch on this topic: What is resilience? : Mentally Healthy Schools

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