GREAT mentorship: an invaluable resource

Date posted: 
Monday, November 7, 2022
Fred Shimali

As a social scientist with a desire to engage in rigorous research for rural transformation and development, I happily found myself at GREAT. My first step on my GREAT journey started at Pro-WEAI training for trainers course held at Forest Cottages Kampala Uganda. Before that training, my mentors and also academic supervisors [Prof. Margaret Najjingo Mangheni (GREAT co-PI) and Dr. Losira Nasirumbi Sanya (GREAT trainer)] strongly encouraged me to be present and fully participate in the course, which I followed. 

Being part of the training was timely because it introduced me to gendered research approaches and methods to measuring women empowerment using qualitative and quantitative methods. With my bias and love for quantitative methods, the use of Stata to analyze and generate Pro-WEAI indices and graphics caught my attention. 

Against this background, I refocused my doctoral research area to addressing practical issues affecting communities and how these relate to women empowerment. This has since strengthened my relationship with my supervisors and helped me gain more from their gender experience and knowledge and make strides in my academic journey. It has also exposed me to other training and mentorship opportunities in GREAT, CGIAR and others that I now prioritize GREAT activities. 

Mentorship reality

Initially, I studied research methods during my undergraduate, Masters’ degrees and coursework year of my doctoral study without any intentions of diving deeper into a review of literature. The step-by-step mentorship and virtual Advanced GREAT training in October and November 2021 awakened me to the realization, actualization, practice, and application of acquired knowledge. Rigorous literature review became a possible reality for me after the course. 

From course participant to Research Associate

My selection by GREAT for the position of Research Associate under the Cluster on Women’s empowerment, Masculinities, and Social Norms in agriculture was a stepping stone to accessing experienced, willing, and able trainers.. The mentorship meant  a thin line between the mentors and the mentees. The mentor availability, openness, guidance, and involvement of GREAT mentors in the review process made me not only love literature review but also refine the literature review section in my doctoral study proposal. Amidst a tight schedule, I am writing a literature review manuscript for publication and I credit GREAT for this.

A similar touch on primary studies created room for me to participate in the development of both qualitative and quantitative gender studies. We designed studies from scratch and turned them into tangible products, including an abstract  that was presented at CGIAR Science exchange 2022 held in Nairobi Kenya. 

A conducive work environment while working with mentors as colleagues strengthened  my gender and general research knowledge and skills in various areas. Those include but are not limited to; a) study design, b) fieldwork data collection, c) developing data analysis plans, d) analysis of qualitative and quantitative studies, e) writing and presentation. 

The support and encouragement from the GREAT mentors and colleagues also propelled me to design an award-winning study at the first edition of the GENDERVISION organized by the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform in Nairobi Kenya. My idea for “Empowerment with all arms” earned runner-up and was an amazing experience for me to connect with great women and men researchers at different levels. I also had a chance to interact and connect with top researchers in the development of Gender Research tools including the IFPRI Pro-WEAI team, and the top management of CGIAR. What a memorable experience!

A big lesson on this journey is that unintended actions watered by "Right mentorship"  become intentional and fruitful with time. My question remains "What would the research process be where the mentor and mentee work as colleagues?

About the author

Fred Shimali is a GREAT Fellow and Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda