Girl Effect Accelerator
During one of my Zoona Google searches, as part of my preparation for the Accion assignment, I came across the Girl Effect Accelerator program. This program was officially launched in November 2014 with the purpose of rapidly increasing the positive impact existing companies have on young women and resulted from a partnership between the Nike Foundation and Unreasonable Group. The program involved 10 ventures, including Zoona, who were well positioned to benefit young women.When I learnt that Louise Kalusa, employee of Zoona in Zambia and part of the teller experience team, was given shared responsibility over this program; I knew I wanted to talk to her. So, we sat down for an interview. Louise has been working very closely with the first group of girls from this program, consisting of 11 vulnerable young women (between 16 and 19 years old). Selection took place based upon surveys, interviews, and referrals. The girls were not related to Zoona before entering this program. The purpose of the program was to empower these girls by inspiring them to believe in themselves. Louise says the program’s main goal is to allow these girls to get to better know their own selves and build self-confidence.
Louise told me that under her wing, all girls in the first program were hired as Zoona tellers. Most girls are performing well, but unfortunately some of them faced challenges and had to stop working temporarily. Louise, however, is still in touch with them regularly by phone or meetings where they discuss these difficulties and try to find potential solutions. She is confident that all these girls will succeed. She is happy to contribute towards their personal development, despite of all the setbacks.
Because of this success, she recently started a second group of 32 girls: the accelerator teller program 2.0. This time the girls were selected from a pool of Zoona’s existing tellers throughout the country between the ages of 16 and 21. Louise is currently busy collecting and processing their personal information and is having regular check-ins with them. There is even a WhatsApp and Facebook group for tellers where they can support and educate each other. This type of communication is key according to Louise. It helps them overcome challenges and create social connections. She strongly believes that the second group of girls will yield several A-players. However, she also learnt from the first program that the girls themselves do need to be intrinsically motivated as well; otherwise the support will not be effective in the long run.
From my interactions with Louise, I can feel her passion for Zoona and its entrepreneurs but even more so for the 44 girls she took under her wings. She started working for Zoona in 2013 and soon managed to set-up Zoona’s call centre as Team Lead of Customer Care. Through this position, she received a lot of feedback from customers on the field, and also learned about the struggles agents and tellers faced. She felt she wanted to do more. At that moment in time she was still based in Cape Town; she eventually decided to go back to her home-land Zambia. This offered her the opportunity to be closer to the actual beneficiaries of Zoona and allowed her to support these two groups. She is very passionate about this project.
To me the Girl Effect Accelerator initiative and Zoona’s follow up show how special target groups, such as young female tellers, can really make a difference. I hope Zoona continues with this sort of programs.