WE Lead Scholar Riham Adel inspires young leaders through mentorship program

Interview With
Riham Adel
Guest Author

Riham Adel, Founder and CEO of Job Nile and a 2019 WE Lead Scholar from Egypt, was recently selected as a Specialist Mentor for the Community Engagement Exchange (CEE) Program through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Through the program, mentors work with young leaders across the world to develop and build their leadership capacity and influence. Adel shares about her role as a Specialist Mentor, her life experiences that have grounded her values and principles, and how her participation in the George W. Bush Institute’s WE Lead program aided in her leadership growth and prepared her for this opportunity.  

Tell us about the Community Engagement Exchange Program and the work you will be doing as a Specialist Mentor. What kind of young leaders are accepted into this program? 

The Community Engagement Exchange (CEE) Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is a transformative one-year leadership development experience for young civil society leaders ages 21 through 28. It empowers them to utilize networks, relationships, and information to address social challenges in areas such as youth development, women empowerment, gender equality, civic dialogue, peacebuilding, and sustainable development. Through a competitive process, selected fellows from over 100 countries engage in a three-month U.S.-based practicum at local organizations. CEE Fellows receive mentorship from us as experienced civil society experts – known as CEE Specialists – as we support their integration into the global civil society ecosystem and help build capacity, promote ethical leadership, and foster innovative approaches for resilient communities. 

What are you most excited about serving as a Specialist Mentor for these young leaders during the program? 

Being a mentor for young leaders implementing community projects is an exciting opportunity to empower the next generation of changemakers and contribute to positive change in various fields. By sharing knowledge, providing guidance, and supporting their projects, I can help them create lasting impacts in their communities.  

Mentoring is a two-way street where I can also learn from their fresh perspectives and innovative ideas while building meaningful relationships that extend beyond the mentoring process. It is a chance to make a significant contribution, foster personal growth, and create a lasting positive impact in communities. 

What do you think is lacking in terms of leadership development for young people today? 

Leadership programs have made remarkable impact and progress in recent years but should still prioritize practical skill development and include emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, global perspectives, accessible mentorship, and sustainability. Programs like CEE offer valuable hands-on experiences through practicums, enhancing confidence and decision-making abilities. Witnessing the effectiveness of programs like the ones of the U.S. Department of State and WE Lead, I strongly believe in embracing the latest methodologies to foster the growth and development of young leaders in leadership programs worldwide. 

When you think about leadership, what experiences or mentors have inspired you throughout your life? 

I am incredibly grateful for the presence of my father who has served as one of my earliest mentors. From my childhood, he shaped my character and nurtured my self-confidence, propelling me toward my dreams, believing in my limitless potential that has prepared me for leadership, and equipping me with the skills to conquer any challenge. 

I have also been fortunate to have the ability to choose role models who have greatly inspired me. Throughout history, I have discovered remarkable women who have defied expectations and left an indelible mark. From the fearless reign of ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut to the trailblazing women leaders and scientists who revolutionized our world, their leadership knows no bounds. Their unwavering determination inspires me to push boundaries, challenge norms, and strive for excellence. 

As I embarked on my journey, I actively engaged in valuable initiatives and embraced impactful programs. Beyond my professional pursuits, I dedicated myself to serving my civic community. Along this path, I had the privilege of crossing paths with extraordinary mentors who became beacons of guidance and support. Their care and wisdom have been invaluable, empowering me to pay it forward. Their commitment to uplifting others fuels my desire to make a lasting difference in the lives of those around me. The power of mentorship is undeniable, and I aspire to be a guiding light for others, just as these exceptional individuals have been for me. 

What experiences from WE Lead have proven valuable for you as a leader that you would share with these young leaders as a Specialist Mentor in the CEE program? 

As a mentor, I am eager to share the invaluable knowledge and experience I gained from the WE Lead program with the young leaders. The program equipped me with essential leadership skills, effective communication strategies, a deep understanding of democracy and economic inclusion, self-development, and much more. I’m committed to fostering these qualities in the mentees I guide. 

The extensive and diverse network I gained from the WE Lead program will serve as a valuable asset for the mentees. This network offers collaboration opportunities, knowledge sharing, and global perspectives, providing support whenever needed. Leveraging this network, we can provide valuable resources, connections, and guidance to enhance their projects and broaden their horizons. 

As a mentor, my goal is to share insights and experiences to empower young leaders and equip them with the necessary tools for success. I will guide them in navigating challenges, seizing opportunities, and making a meaningful impact. I believe their ideas can flourish, skills can grow, and their full potential can be realized. With enthusiasm, I will incorporate the lessons I’ve learned into my mentorship role, confident that they will also pave the way for their mentees’ success. 

What is your hope for these young leaders?  

I believe the future holds immense promise for these young leaders. I aspire to be a guiding compass for them as they implement community projects in their countries. As a mentor I will instill self-confidence, offer unwavering support, and help them overcome challenges. Developing essential skills, fostering networks and collaborations, and cultivating a global mindset are my priorities. In a nurturing and secure learning environment, my primary goal is to foster resilience and adaptability among these young leaders. By doing so, I aim to empower them to initiate enduring and constructive transformations and inspire others to follow suit.