Girl Pro Africa: On the mission to transform the lives of African female undergraduates

Lola Ayanda, Founder Girl Pro Africa.

Ignorance is no longer an excuse because Girl Pro Africa(GPA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is championing female empowerment offering top-notch learning and development opportunities. Female undergraduates can avail themselves of opportunities to grow presented to them by Girl Pro Africa. With a vision to ensure female undergraduates reach their full potential and think critically and innovatively, Girl Pro Africa serves as a haven to access experienced mentors, counsellors, mental health specialists and other resources. 

Founded by Lola Ayanda, Girl Pro Africa is committed to seeing African women actualise the future they envision. This NGO partners with stakeholders in the education sector to formulate policies that favour African female undergraduates. At Girl Pro Africa, the goal is to help females rise above their challenges and barriers to attain leadership positions in their different spheres of influence. 

Sharing similar values on women empowerment, Omote Ro Dhe was drawn to Girl Pro Africa, and we had a chat about her mission and vision, projects, accomplishments, success stories, future goals and more. Read excerpts from this interesting conversation below:

1. Can you tell us more about Girl Pro Africa's mission and vision? What inspired the creation of this organisation?

As a woman born and raised in Nigeria, my personal and professional experiences inspired me to found Girl-Pro Africa (GPA). Working with multinational charities and grassroots organisations, I encountered many young girls who could have achieved better life outcomes if they had access to mentors and confidantes to guide them through the challenges of growing up. What started as an online safe space has become a full-fledged non-profit organisation. GPA's mission is to empower and mentor the next generation of African female leaders and professionals. We connect young women to career and personal development opportunities through a unique mentor-mentee program.

By pairing mentees with experienced female goal models, we aim to give young African women a great head start, personally and professionally. Our mentors provide invaluable advice, support, and encouragement to help mentees make wise decisions and reach their full potential. By investing in young women today, we believe we can create a brighter future for them, their communities, and the continent.

I am most fulfilled when I see a girl make informed life choices and maximise her potential. As girls navigate adolescence to womanhood, they face the challenge of moving through physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional development with a healthy sense of self intact. Girl-pro provides a protected mentor-mentee safe space for the adult woman and the girl/young woman to connect through shared experiences.

GPA's mission is to empower African female undergraduates through transformative learning experiences to cultivate their full potential and drive positive change in society. Our vision is a world where there is a supportive environment for African female undergraduates to thrive academically, emotionally, and professionally, becoming leaders who shape a more equitable and inclusive world.

We believe every woman should have access to experienced mentors, counselling, mental health support, and other valuable resources to help them achieve their full potential and become critical thinkers and innovators. 


Coach Eghosa Gbadegesin, Certified Accountant speaking with the girls on Money Management

2. Could you share some insights into the e-Mentorship program? How does it benefit female African undergraduates, and what support do mentors provide?

The principles of transformative learning guide the GPA e-mentorship programme. This approach focuses on helping individuals undergo a profound shift in their understanding of themselves and the world around them. In a world of ‘black otherness’, we believe that true learning must start from a place of self-discovery.

Some topics discussed include decolonising the mind, self-esteem, work ethics, money management, goal setting, personal branding, a High-performance mindset, the art of public speaking, emotional intelligence, and more. The girls have reported improved self-confidence and esteem, rediscovery of self, resilience, networking, and communication and interpersonal skills.

The essence of this programme is to empower learners to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to solve real-world problems. To achieve this, we have curated a multi-faceted learning experience:       

§         2-Day Boot Camp

Participants immerse themselves in an intensive 2-day boot camp, packed with interactive sessions designed to challenge their perspectives and ignite new ways of thinking.

§     Weekly Reading & Reflection

Throughout the programme, learners engage in weekly reading assignments and reflection activities. This encourages them to deeply internalise the lessons and apply them to their own lives.

§      3-Month Intensive Learning

The programme's core is a 3-month period of intensive, hands-on learning during which learners receive personalised guidance from an experienced mentor in their field.

§       Continuous Development Support

Even after the structured learning phases, participants will continue to receive support and resources to sustain their growth and development. This ensures that the programme's impact extends well beyond the initial experience.

By combining transformative learning principles, practical skill-building, and long-term support, the GPA e-mentorship programme aims to empower the women we serve to become agents of positive change in their communities and the world around them.


Mental Health conversation by certified therapist- Coach Rhoda Olarewaju

3. Psychosocial support is a crucial aspect of your organisation. How does Girl Pro Africa(GPA) help students navigate the challenges and stresses of university life?

University life can present unique challenges that can impact the academic performance of female students, especially in the African context. Aside from personal issues like domestic and family responsibilities, many young African women face additional obstacles during their higher education journey.

To help navigate these challenges, Girl Pro Africa provides bespoke mental health support through certified therapists. Over the years, we have assisted young women in dealing with issues such as:

§     Domestic abuse

§     Academic stress

§     Difficult interactions with lecturers

§     Depression, particularly among unemployed young women or those whose studies are disrupted by frequent university strikes.

By offering this specialised mental health support, Girl Pro Africa aims to empower African women to excel in their academic pursuits. We recognise that addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by female students is crucial for their success and personal growth during the university experience.

Through professional counselling and guidance, Girl Pro Africa helps African women develop the necessary coping mechanisms and resilience to overcome the various obstacles they may encounter, ultimately enabling them to thrive in their academic endeavours.


4. What are some success stories or notable achievements of Girl Pro Africa in helping women achieve their full potential?

Below are some testimonials, and here is a link to audio testimonials:

The mentorship programme is life-transforming and impactful. When I started my mentorship program with Dr Funmilayo, she offered me an HR assistant role in her organisation. I improved my presentation and research skills. I also learnt how to be diligent, committed, time conscious, and respond appropriately to emails, amongst other things. My time with my mentor helped me improve my interpersonal skills. All her encouraging words and commendations on my deliverables have helped me in my day-to-day life as a student. I enjoyed every Sunday night reflection session with the Girl Pro secretariat, where we discussed each code in the book 'Success Code for Millennials'. The book opened my eyes to so much helpful information now and in the future. The mentorship program was the highlight of 2022 for me. Federal University of Technology, Abeokuta.

Vita Moltedo was assigned as my mentor, and she was more than that to me; she was a mother, a teacher, a sister and a friend. She asked me deep questions. I wouldn't ask myself these questions on a typical day; she taught me how to face my fears, leave my comfort zone, and identify opportunities. My mentor said, and I quote, "You do not have to feel bad if you have applied for something before and you didn't get it; you can apply again". This encouraged me to reapply for the She Code Africa Laptop Scholarship I won and got a laptop.

I also learned to optimise my LinkedIn profile and write a good CV. Girl Pro also gave me beautiful sisters. Being in a safe space with women and hearing them share their views is enriching. It has been an awesome journey, and I am so glad I joined the community. I enjoyed every bit of the programme, from the Sunday night reviews to the game and one-on-one sessions with my mentor. I have become a better person and begun to share the things I have learnt with my siblings, parents, and friends. – Olajumoke Dare, University of Lagos


Snapshot from one of GPA's virtual sessions

5. What are your future goals and plans for Girl Pro Africa? How do you envision the organisation's impact growing in the coming years?

By 2030, we aim to significantly expand our e-mentoring and psychosocial support programs to reach more young women across Africa; currently, we are serving women in Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. We will collaborate closely with key stakeholders in Africa's education ecosystem to co-create transformative learning policies and spaces that unlock opportunities for young women.

We are actively seeking partnerships with like-minded organisations who share our mission of transforming education and empowering the next generation of female leaders on the African continent. Together, we can make a lasting impact and create a more equitable future.


6. What advice do you have for young girls pursuing purpose but seem confused if they are on the right path?

A purposeful woman is one who has come to the realisation that she has not been created solely for herself. As a result, she will not be overly consumed by her successes or unduly distressed by her failures. Purpose is not a fixed or static concept; rather, it is constantly evolving in line with God's desires for humanity.

Therefore, a woman who feels confused or uncertain about her purpose should turn to the Creator to seek guidance and direction. Oftentimes, we are tempted to rely on the advice of those around us, but the answers we truly need lie within. We live in a world that is increasingly noisy and distracting, so women on a mission to fulfil their purpose must learn to tune out the noise. In the quietness, they can gain clarity and the strength to move forward.

Crucially, it is important not to let others define success or purpose for you. These are highly personal and subjective concepts, and until we identify what they mean to us individually, we may struggle to live a life that can be truly described as "well spent." I would advise conducting a thorough self-audit, critically reflecting on what truly matters, and performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis using the Ikigai concept.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that refers to a person's "reason for being"—the things that give their life meaning, purpose, and fulfilment.

The key aspects of ikigai are:

·         Finding what you love (your passion)

·         Finding what you're good at (your mission)

·         Finding what the world needs (your vocation)

·         Finding what you can be paid for (your profession)

The intersection of these frames one's purpose. As Edmond Mbiaka eloquently stated, "Peace of mind always comes with knowing who you truly are, where you currently stand, where you positively need to be, and strongly believing in its possibility.”


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