Financially inclusive companies can give young women a shot at success

One woman’s inspiring story for International Day of the Girl

Around the world, girls face disproportionate obstacles to achieve success and well-being. To bring awareness to gender disparity and the uphill battle that young women face, the United Nation designates October 11 as International Day of the Girl.

Financial inclusion isn’t just about numbers — it’s about people. And when more people have access to high quality, affordable financial services, they have more opportunities to thrive. This is especially true for women, who are often underserved by traditional financial institutions.

One company that is helping to close the gap for girls and women is Zoona, a partner that we’re proud to include in our portfolio. Zoona has revolutionized cash transfers in Zambia by setting up its kiosks for the unbanked in remote parts of the country.

Along with access to funds, Zoona also bring jobs and a chance at success for young women. Annetty Chama, 19, is one example. Each day, she makes the hour-long commute into the Zambian capital, Lusaka. The endless, bumpy bus ride could elicit complaints, but for Chama, it’s the perfect time to daydream.

Annetty Chama rides the bus to her job at Zoona

She dreams about being successful and running her own business one day. “You know when you just know you’re going to be successful,” she says. “I’ll be walking to work sometimes and suddenly get excited because I know I’m going to be successful one day.”

Chama wasn’t always so optimistic. She had finished school in 2014, but there was no money to continue her education. Her only option was to stay at home, helping her grandmother and mother with the cleaning and cooking, caring for her younger siblings, and nursing her father and brother — both of them terminally ill.

Then, one morning she had a phone call from her English teacher, who was looking for candidates to take part in a training program for Zoona.

Annetty Chama works in a Zoona kiosk in Lusaka

One month later Chama was working in a Zoona kiosk in Lusaka. In just six weeks she had gone from unemployed to being the main breadwinner for her family.

The Zoona program that trained Chama was born out of the ‘Girl Effect Accelerator’ — an initiative created by the Nike Foundation and the Unreasonable Group. Zoona was chosen for the Girl Effect Accelerator due to its focus on recruiting high potential young women from underprivileged communities to become part of its teller pipeline. It then helps tellers to increase and invest their earnings so that they can own their own kiosks, earn more, and empower people in their communities.

Annetty Chama at home with her family

Chama sleeps on a sofa in her grandmother’s two-bedroom house and gets up at 5am, but the routine doesn’t bother her. She says she is proud that she is the reason her 12-year-old brother can go to school. She’s also had a solar panel electricity box installed in her mother’s house using her savings so that they will finally have electricity.

She has accomplished all of this in the few months that she’s been working with Zoona. “The chores always take so long when you have no money,” she says as she arrives home and collects a container that she will fill with water at the communal tap. “But when you can dream about the future, nothing takes long.”

H/T to Quona Capital and Zoona.

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