The Girls’ Network

Author - Marianne O'Sullivan

Date published:

One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals focusses on ensuring quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. At the Girls’ Network our mission is to inspire and empower girls (aged 14-19) from the least advantaged communities, by connecting them to a volunteer mentor and a network of professional female role models.  We believe no one should have their future limited by race, gender or parental income, working closely with local schools in Tyne and Wear and Tees Valley, to identify those who need our programme the most.

The charity was founded to help girls facing both the class and the glass ceiling.  Girls are more likely to become NEET*, despite them continuing to outperform boys at GCSE.  We believe that you can’t be what you can’t see, therefore our solution is to provide a successful female mentor who they can relate to and who lives and works where they live, which fosters the thought that they can do that too.  It also helps to retain talent in the region.

We focus on building up resilience and confidence so that when they are exposed to new opportunities, they are equipped and willing to embrace them.  This can have a positive impact on their immediate education but also helps to prepare them for the future world of work.  72% of our North East mentees who responded to our survey in Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021, said that mentoring helped them to focus more at school and 95% said their mentor helped them think more positively about their future.  Many of our girls go on to Russell Group Universities or secure a job in their chosen profession but the true indicator to our success is if every girl feels heard, valued and supported. 

When everything stopped due to the pandemic, we continued our inclusive mentoring, according to our message “The future isn’t cancelled”, and converted 70% of the programme to virtual within three weeks of the first lockdown, despite it highlighting the digital divide and its considerable impact on those from the least advantaged communities.  A divide we wish to help overcome by ensuring our mentees become experienced in communicating with a professional virtually, an essential lifelong skill for post-pandemic education and work.

After the formal mentoring year, each mentee becomes an Ambassador for The Girls’ Network, ensuring lifelong peer support.

“I have learnt that there is always something positive in life… you can make a difference to your world and be the person you aspire to be.” Mentee, Tyne & Wear.

*NEET annual brief, Calendar Year 2020 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

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