The Mwele Malecela Mentorship Program for Women in Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)
The Mwele Malecela Mentorship (MMM) Program for Women in Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) supports mid-career African women to become leaders and champions in NTD elimination at national and international levels. NTDs and other Tropical and Vector-Borne Diseases (TVD) Programmes are part of and contribute to the work of the Universal health coverage/Communicable and non-communicable diseases (UHC/UCN) cluster in the WHO African region.
WHO/AFRO is leading this program in collaboration with The END Fund and the American Society for Medicine, Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (ASMTH). Aligned with the Global NTD Roadmap, the MMM program will provide mentorship, training and networking opportunities over two years to cohorts of women from 2023 to 2030.
Using an innovative gender-intentional approach, the MMM program aims to increase the overall coverage, effectiveness and impact of NTD interventions by ensuring the program support for women to overcome gender barriers in access to leadership while also acquiring skills and resources that enable them to be influential leaders and agents of change.
The programme provides awards to at least five mentees selected per year, from 2023 to 2030. The award includes the following:
a) Two-year mentorship programme
b) Cash award over two years for learning, networking and skills-building activities
c) Access to online communications platforms for mentees, mentors and alumna
Mentorship Program Design & Selection of Mentees
The program integrates a gender lens into the design and implementation of the critical program components, including (a) Mentorship Program Design & Selection of Awardees, (b) Mentorship Program Implementation and (c) Mentorship Program Mgt., Review, and Evaluation.
The gender-intentional approach of the MMM program incorporates outreach and recruitment strategies that avoid reinforcing the marginalisation of some groups who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on, for example, socio-economic status, location, ethnicity or disability. The outreach tactics are tailored to reach women with less access to main social or professional networks, e.g. women with disabilities and women from ethnic or religious minority groups. The program also targets mid-career women working on NTDs in Africa for optimal long-term impact on global NTD goals.
Similarly, the program recruits diverse mentors who can serve as role models for participants and will include not only “accomplished and influential leaders in the NTD community” but women and men who are strong and experienced leaders working closer to the community level, in marginalised communities, or on issues that receive less attention, including NTDs and many gender equality issues.
Mentorship Program Implementation
To foster the mentees’ capacity to exercise leadership for gender equality and to be influential leaders and agents of change, the gender-intentional approach to mentorship prioritises programs that address gender barriers to advancing in leadership roles and aim to increase gender equality in representation and decision-making in leadership. Also, representatives from Women’s Rights Organizations (WRO) and/or organisations focused on gender equality will participate in the Mentorship Program Steering and/or the Selection Committees.
The Mentorship Program’s Mgt., Review, And Evaluation component includes gender-intentional measurement, learning and evaluation.
The program's long timeframe and annual cycles, with multiple cohorts over time, provide an excellent opportunity for capturing learnings on how to effectively design and implement a mentorship program that advances women in leadership and creates an impact on NTDs and across the health sector. The multiple cohorts will also allow for course corrections and continuous improvements over time.