Girls in Nigeria are often limited in education, married off at early ages, and are silent victims of assault or abuse by older men. Now, a new service called Girls Connect is using a toll-free service that connects Nigerian girls with other women to talk about the problems, hardships and successes of daily life.
“It's really challenging being a girl in Nigeria today,” says Iveren Shinshima, who works as a Girl Effect advisor, in this article from TIME magazine. “We talk about how she can stay safe while making money.”
The program was started through the partnership of iSON, one of Africa’s largest IT companies, and Girl Effect, an international non-profit organization. With support from the Nike Foundation, Girl Effect works to end poverty by empowering adolescent girls and women.
“In the customer service industry we try and resolve your problem by putting you in touch with an automated machine,” says Ramesh Awlaney, chief executive of iSON. “If the machine can’t help, you are connected to an agent, so the thinking was that we could replicate this process for girls in the context of giving them information on relationships, medical problems, education, and social media, etc.”
Calls begin with a choice between four stories, with four chapters each. After listening to a story, the caller is connected with a specially-trained advisor. These advisors, all women, ask the girls questions like, “Is this something that someone you know has experienced before?” or “If you thought a girl was put in danger by someone, what advice would you give her?” By doing so, they help the girls internalize the lessons.
The Girls Connect call center receives hundreds of calls a day. In the first month alone, the Girls Connect call service received 42,000 calls. Even more telling about the need for the service are the repeat calls from girls, who often ask for their favorite advisor by name. Although these 18 women field a large volume of calls every day, they are unwavering in their enthusiastic support of their callers.
In the test region of northern Nigeria, Girls Connect is clearly a hit. iSON and Girl Effect plan to expand the project to the entire nation and beyond.
Read the full Time magazine article here.