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MENTORING AND POLITICAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME

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 COHORT 13 

 

A big congratulations to these 29 women. They’ve been selected to be on this year’s Fabian Women’s Network Public and Political Life Mentoring Programme. They join a group of over 300 programme alumni including 16 standing, as Labour candidates, in the General Election 2024.

ABOUT THE PROGRAMME

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The FWN Mentoring Programme was launched in 2011, on International Women’s Day. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. Nearly 300 women have now completed the Programme. Everyone selected has a mentor (a senior Labour politician or leader in public life), central support from our coordinators and regular contact with other women in their cohort. Many mentees combine the programme with a full-time job, or study, as well as family demands. Over ten months, each mentee invests a total of around seven days to the programme including these compulsory events:

  • Induction half day in Westminster

  • Three evenings of skills training (media skills, campaigning, how to be a trustee)

  • Two-day residential at Northern College, Barnsley (learning debating, speech writing, public speaking and networking skills)

  • Speed networking evening

  • Half-day visit to Labour HQ

  • Parliament Day
    There is no charge for joining the programme, which is funded by donations. There are some travel costs, though mentees living outside of London who need financial assistance can apply for help with train fares.

The Programme has already delivered some incredible results for its participants. Among the mentee alumni there is one MP, eight Labour parliamentary candidates, eighty local councillors and twelve CEOs of charities.

Mentees have gained increased confidence to go for promotions, or take up new opportunities. Most have become more politically active locally, chairing meetings, writing for their local newspaper or other media.

Many mentees report that their lives have been transformed. Here are some testimonials from mentees from our last Cohort (their programme finished at the end of Feb 2024):
 

This programme has been a transformative experience for me. I joined with a lot of ambition but near zero political acumen, and have now been selected for two public office roles by the party. I can honestly say this is based on the programme, what I have learned, the people I have met and the support I have received from some of the most amazing women.

Devina Paul (Cohort 12)

 

The FWN scheme has been transformative for me. It has helped me to find my voice, own my political ambitions, offered me loads of practical support and advice, and given me so much more confidence in myself. The mutual support and relationships with my cohort of women have been a joy. I know they will last well beyond the programme.

Sarah Gillinson (Cohort 12)

 

I cannot speak highly enough of the FWN mentoring programme. I have recommended it to a number of people. Christine, Caroline and Georgie have provided an experience that money can’t buy. It has been so full of value, and given me confidence to set out what I want to achieve.

Joanne Rose (Cohort 12)

 

I’ve put myself forward to become a union representative and spoken up to support a political mandate for the union. Old me would have tried to support the union and causes behind the scenes, like I’ve always done. I am now happy to take on the risks of being in the public eye to advocate for causes I care about.

Kopiga Kugananthavel (Cohort 12)

 

I will be forever grateful to the organisers of this network for a stimulating, challenging and immensely supportive and enriching experience. The courses, tasks and events have become so well-honed over successive cohorts of mentees that they will provide you with the right level of support and challenge. They are well timed to fit around work and home life. Over the year you will come to rely on the fantastic organisers and group of women in your cohort and will wonder how you ever managed without them!

Clare McNeil (Cohort 12)

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Evaluation Reports

We are committed to regularly evaluating and improving this scheme. So far we have published four academic evaluation reports with the support of Unison.

Read each one below.

Finding Her Political Voice
Footprints in the Sand
Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

MENTEE ACHIEVEMENTS

Every mentee starts at a different place on their journey through political or public life and achievements therefore vary from person to person.  We have found that everyone achieves significantly and for some women it’s life changing immediately and others it takes slightly longer.  We celebrate women speaking out at their local CLP as much as those addressing the party conference for the first time. We enjoy hearing questions during the Fabian conference and messages from those about to speak on Women’s Hour. Voice training and practice with speaking out are part of the programme.

Most mentees are promoted at work faster than they have expected and a significant number have found new jobs using the powerful network we have created. Encouragement and support with preparing for the recruitment process is readily available. We have mentees who have moved into senior roles in political offices, in local and central government, in the public sector and in charities.

Our alumni network includes women who work in the shadow cabinet’s offices, the Home Office, the Department of Education, the Ministry of Justice, City Hall, NHS England and the TUC. We have headteachers, AI specialists, business leaders, doctors, anaesthetists, probation and prison service workers.  Some are working overseas in the UN, for DfID or in overseas charities. Twelve FWN women are CEOs of charities, including Get Further, The Difference, Age UK London, WasteAid, Action for Stammering Children, Criminal Justice Alliance and The Young Camden Foundation. There are also directors at The Diana Award, Wipro and Nesta.

As well as those who have been elected as Councillors or MP, a number have significant voluntary roles as trustees or chair of charities and our speed networking events create opportunities for mentees to learn how to be selected onto a Trust.  The Women in AI was launched by three mentees and is now a thriving movement. 

We encourage and celebrate achievements at every stage of a mentee’s journey.

Becoming a councillor

Over the last 12 years the route from the mentoring programme to being elected as a local councillor has proved very popular. A few women have joined who have already been elected. They have been great role models and very supportive.  A few women have already set their sights on being elected.  The majority of mentees have seen others take up this incredibly important role and been attracted by it. It’s a huge influential achievement which impacts positively on a large number of people.

To date 80 mentees have been elected as councillors all over the country – that’s over a quarter of mentees – reaching nearly one million constituents. They have one MP already and a number of women en route to Westminster – including eight who’ve recently been selected as Labour parliamentary candidates.  Many of them are trailblazers who were encouraged by their peers and their mentors to seek public office.

Peymana Assad, Councillor in Harrow, was the first publicly elected official of Afghan origin. Rehana Ameer, was the first Indian-born woman elected to the Court of the Common Council in 950 years of the City of London Corporation’s history. Favour Ezeifedi is the first African Deputy Labour Leader in Watford Council. In Redbridge at one stage all the women councillors had come through the mentoring programme.

On the programme there’s a lot of support available for mentees wanting to follow this route: we have a publication produced by mentees. Some of our mentors have been councillors. We have a Councillor WhatsApp group where other mentees share advice to those considering the route as well as those already elected.

This group is also helpful for those elected wanting to be promoted to cabinet positions and for sharing good practice. 

Finding their political voice

One of the aims of the mentoring programme is to hear more women's voices in public and political life. We want to hear them and see them both speaking out and in writing.

Many women apply to the mentoring programme with a strong interest in becoming more active in public and political life. A few of them are practised in debating. Some of them already hold public office. The majority of those accepted onto the programme want to increase their confidence in speaking or writing.

During the course of the programme mentees are encouraged to express their views through public speaking, debates and exchanges with others on their cohort or former mentees. We provide particular opportunities (with support) for mentees to pitch and write articles.

Voice training is critically important for us all. Our training in how to deal with the media has particularly helped mentees going for high-profile roles. These skills are also useful in other stressful situations like job interviews.

We have seen a number of mentees on Sky News, BBC News, ITV News, Times Radio, LBC, Politics show, Sunday politics and Radio 4. Mentees' voices can be heard at conferences in the UK and internationally - including on Fabian panels at the Labour Party conference. There's regular articles from mentees on the Fabian Society pages, on Labour list, Huffington post and in the Guardian. Other mentees have published books, plays or written film scripts 

Many of those had never spoken out before and realised they had found their political voice.

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