Spotlight: Ruth Koha James

To continue our celebration of Women’s History Month, today we’ll be hearing from one of our most experienced and accomplished AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring on how mentoring has impacted her, how she views mentoring, and how we can best support her and all women in the field of Mentoring. Specifically, I’m honored to be joined by Ruth Koha James, who is currently serving at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts!


1. How do you feel mentoring as an institution affects young women, and how do you think the field could improve in this area?

Mentoring as an institution affects young women because good mentorship enables young women to become positive role models to their families, communities, and the world at large. There is an African proverb that states: “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)” - Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey.


Mentoring young women affects more than just individuals since in fact young women in most cultures play very important roles in their families and communities. Because  young women play important roles such as being their child(ren)’s first teacher, it is important that the mentoring field invest in a holistic approach to mentoring young women so that they can be empowered to face their responsibilities and or assigned gender roles in their cultures and communities.


2. Can you tell us about a female mentor that has had an impact on your life?

Yes. Oprah Winfrey has impacted my life in so many ways. She is one of my mentors, and has been a positive role model for me. Although I have not personally met Oprah, I listen to her all the time and I always see myself in her. Seeing someone that looks like me succeed encourages me to know and believe that I can also be successful. 


Of the many programs and philanthropic work that Oprah does, the one that I most admire and resonates with me and my mission for empowering girls and women is the boarding school that she opened for girls in South Africa called “The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls”OWLAG.  I believe that when girls are educated, they will be empowered to be an asset to their families, communities, countries and the world.


3. How can your male co-workers and colleagues best support you and serve as allies to you?

First and foremost, I would like for my male co-workers and colleagues to accept that  I/we are co-workers because we all have the skill sets required to serve/ work in the positions that we are in. With this mindset, I believe we can promote mutual support for one another with the goal of getting the job done.


4. Who is a woman who inspires you, and why?

My mother Mrs. Ruth M. P Koha. She never stops learning. She is a retired librarian who loves to read a lot and research things. She is self motivated and is never afraid to try new things. As a mother of four biological daughters and many others she has supported, she encourages women and girls to thrive and to never give up on their goals in life no matter how long it takes. She is my shero.


5. What would you say to a young woman considering signing up for a mentoring program?

Go for it! Please, please do, it will be one of the best decisions that you will make. Having a mentor is a great asset to support you through your high school years, prepare you for college and the workforce. You will get to do a lot of fun things with your mentor and build a lasting friendship.


Samuel Steed is the AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring Communications and Network Outreach Associate at Mass Mentoring Partnership.