Baak Network, founded in 2021, is Bangladesh’s first 360-degree virtual mentoring platform, for and by women. Baak coaches young Bangladeshi women (15-21yrs) to reach out for mentoring support throughout different critical turning points of their lives.
Baak aims to tackle the confidence and opportunity gap for young adolescent women in Bangladesh. Even in privileged societies like the US, girls lose 30% of their confidence between the age of 8-14. In Bangladesh, although more girls complete primary and secondary schools than boys, there’s a steep decline in their University enrollment.
Baak Network is run by a global network of Bangladeshi women, who have decade-long field experience in the development sector. It was first prototyped in Beirut and Dhaka, as part of coursework at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. In early 2021 amid the peak pandemic and the long school closures in Bangladesh, Baak ran several rounds of quick prototypes in different schools in Dhaka, before launching their first official cohort in September 2021.
The Baak Mentors are young to mid-career women professionals who come from multinationals to tech, media, advertisement, education, publishing, civil service, non-profits, think tanks, inter-governmental organizations, etc. All mentors go through a series of training as well to prepare them for this crucial journey. The Baak mentors, although grew up in Bangladesh, are based in different parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North America; including Bangladesh.
Baak’s “Wholesome Mentoring” approach requires mentors to be from diverse backgrounds and industries, with non-traditional life/career choices and previous experience of working with youth.
Baak has a 30% acceptance rate for mentees, who come from all divisions of Bangladesh, including the rural and slum areas. Each mentee is prepared for a fully funded mentorship opportunity through a number of workshops. The workshops are delivered through local experts that represent organizations like Kotha, Wreetu, Bokulful, GolpoKothon by Kollol, Moner School, Sister Library, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, BRAC, Save The Children, etc.
Besides the workshops, Baak also hosts open for all event series called “Confidence Circles’ ‘ featuring important workshops to unpack the gendered experience of confidence.
Baak Network now has 45 mentees, 25 mentors, and a mental health fund for mentees to access professional counseling (through partners). 86% of Baak mentees report improvement in self-reflection and confidence, 80% mention taking their mental health more seriously, because of Baak, 93% report being more aware about consent, and its role in defining sexual harassment, 44% achieved major life milestones e.g. launching their own business, changing their majors, starting their dream internships and jobs, finding their inner strength, etc.
Baak’s two mentoring cohorts have had iconic Bangladeshi women figures like media personality Rafiath Rashid Mithila and mountaineer Nishat Mazumdar as their keynote speakers.
Baak Network is currently funded by Derby Center for Entrepreneurship, Tufts University in the US.
Baak was accepted into the Tufts Venture Accelerator’s full-time cohort in July 2022 where they received an equity-free venture award of USD 10,000, in addition to 10 weeks of mentoring, an office space, and a one-year membership at We Global Studio valued at $924.
“Mentorship is not about connecting famous people with ambitious teenagers and hoping things will work out. It is about continuously nudging and reinventing a sense of belonging for the mentor and mentee, that many successful mentoring pairs find organically. At Baak, we believe in evidence-based mentoring. Each phase of our program, starting from the early prototypes, has been backed by empirical findings. The training we received from Tufts Venture Accelerator changed some major key design elements of the Baak model. The award helps us to continue to learn and experiment in our commitment to bring the power of mentorship to every young adolescent woman in Bangladesh.” says Masrura Oishi, the Founder of Baak Network.
Baak was also accepted into UNLEASH+ global accelerator program, however, had to drop out when the team could no longer meet the travel requirement.
Baak Network is launching its 3rd Mentorship cohort in January along with a new platform called Baak Advisory targeting the professional and personal growth needs of Baak Mentors and Alums, with EMK Center as their Outreach Partner.