Look: 84 girls get 'speed mentored' at Dubai event

The girls spoke about their fears, insecurities, and aspirations for future for five minutes


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Tue 24 May 2022, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 24 May 2022, 6:14 PM

You have heard of speed dating. But have you heard of speed mentoring? Eighty-four students aged between 12 and 13 from Dubai College were speed mentored to equip them to deal with life’s curveballs and take better decisions.

The event, titled Role Model Relay by UK-based organisation Girls Out Loud, saw mentors address a small group of girls about their fears, insecurities, and aspirations for the future for five minutes. As the bell rang, the role models moved to another table while new ones joined the girls.

All 12 tables in the hall were buzzing with activity. Some students were more forthcoming than the others. However, the conversations were free flowing, and the mentors were honest about their successes and mistakes, gradually drawing the girls out of their shells.

“This has been the most inspiring day. I now see that our career paths are not fixed; it doesn’t have to be linear, things change, but that’s how new opportunities always present,” said one of the 13-year-old to her mentor.

A healthcare coach and one of the role models, Cathy Cribben, said it was an honour to be part of the event. “Mentorship is a gift where we can learn, challenge our perspectives, and grow together in the mentorship relationship. This was demonstrated in reality today.”

Sharing Experiences

The event also had four of the distinguished guests share their experiences - Founder and CEO of Girls Out Loud, Jane Kenyon, PR guru Louise Jacobson, qualified chartered accountant Amanda Line and mental health expert Dr Saliha Afridi.

Jane Kenyon spoke at length about her climb to the top of the corporate ladder and then switch to becoming a serial entrepreneur. She also recounted how she reinvented herself several times over her decades-long career.

“If you are not failing, you are not risking enough,” she said. “We live in this little space called comfort zone. Step out of it. Take risks. The worst thing that can happen when you take risks is that you don’t get a result you want. But it will be such a great learning experience for you. And the best thing that can happen is that you are successful. Either way, it is a win.”

When students asked her the biggest risk she had taken so far, she opened up candidly about her mistakes in her career.

Louise Jacobson spoke about her journey of becoming a PR guru that was fraught with successes and failures. She advised students not to rush into things just because their friends were doing it, while another speaker Amanda Line urged the youngsters that being happy was the biggest determiner of success.

Mental health expert Dr Saliha Afridi spoke about being one of the first women in her family to graduate and about the uphill task she faced while building a mental health practice in the UAE. “Fifteen years ago, when I first arrived in the country, the discussion about mental health was still in its nascent stages,” she said. “Some people build their companies brick by brick. I built mine pebble by pebble. It was very challenging. There was a stage when every day, I felt like giving up. However, that is long past, and I am proud of how far I have come.”


Later, speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Saliha said that she had attended the event after much consideration. “I see it as a great responsibility to share my story while inspiring students to live their own,” she said. “I loved being with the girls, and I felt they were curious and engaged and that is really energizing. In a world that is becoming increasingly perfectionist and critical, I believe it is important for kids to have access to role models that are inspiring, honest and vulnerable alongside being hardworking and successful.”

The event has received a massive response from the students as well as the mentors.

“The feedback from the girls confirms the need for our work here in Dubai,” said Jane. “They felt inspired by so many different success stories and listening to real women, share real stories and talk about their experiences in the world of work and then getting to chat with them about this helps alleviate some anxieties and pressure about the unknown. Sometimes you need to see it to believe it is possible.”

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