Loozeele, It Shall Be Well!

From Kayayoo to a Startup

Romuald Ngomssi with Vera Acquah
A Kayayoo carrying goods in one of the markets in Bolga.
UNICEF/Romuald Ngomssi/2023
A Kayayoo carrying goods in one of the markets in Bolga.
23 August 2023
Ms. Teni Agana, the Managing Director of Loozeele Initiative.
UNICEF/Vera Acquah/2023
Ms. Teni Agana, the Managing Director of Loozeele Initiative.

Teni Agana stopped going to school when she was 16 because her parents could barely make ends meet or take care of her and her two siblings. Teni decided to travel from Bolgatanga to Kumasi, a journey of about 10 hours to find work. With no professional training, she became a Kayayoo (female head porter) with the aim of saving money for her education.  Kayayei are women and young girls who migrate from the northern parts of Ghana to bustling capitals like Accra or Kumasi with the hope of earning a decent income. As they search for a livelihood, they also suffer a lack of access to safe housing, sanitation, and security . They are also intensely susceptible to theft, sexual and emotional abuse. Many become pregnant and lack facilities to support the upkeep of their children in the markets where they work as porters.

Growing up, I had imagined myself in a graduation gown, and I wasn't prepared to let go of that dream.”

30-year-old Teni

Despite her arduous experiences as a Kayayoo, Teni pursued an education and was able to secure a scholarship to study at the prestigious Ashesi University in Accra. She later created a startup named Loozeele Initiative with the objective to support young girls facing the challenges she confronted.

 “My home had seen generations of head porters, from my grandmother to my mother and now me. As I looked at these young women and their predicament, I thought of my little sister, who could end up like them. I decided to help these young women. ‘Loozeele' in my native language of Frafra means 'it shall be well'. My company seeks to aid girls who want to return home and resettle with sustainable means of employment and avenues for education.”

Teni Agana’s startup provides opportunities for young girls to receive practical training in basket weaving, shea butter making, marketing, and selling their products so they can take up ventures that will be able to support themselves and their families. Her enterprise, Loozeele Initiative, was part of the third cohort of the UNICEF Startup Lab’s accelerator programme. Although it has been in operation for three years and supported 70 young women - 50 in Accra and 20 in Bolgatanga, Loozeele Initiative needed to ramp up  its operational standards. “The UNICEF Startup Lab has allowed us to examine and reconfigure our operations for a more significant impact. The programme has been instrumental in our success as a company. We have seen a remarkable increase in our revenue and sales since implementing the strategies and advice of the UNICEF Startup lab programme. In addition, we have been able to develop a website and an e-commerce platform to showcase our products, which has helped boost our sales. We have also been able to use the funding we received to create a social media presence and promote our products and services. Thanks to the UNICEF StartUp Lab and all stakeholders, we’ve been able to develop Loozeele Academy of Excellence, a primary school that provides basic education to children of Kayayei and our impact as a company is now felt more in various communities. We sought to improve our marketing skills, and with a specialist provided by the UNICEF Startup Lab, we have seen a significant scale-up in our company” said Ms. Teni Agana Managing Director of Loozeele Initiative.

After being part of the six-month accelerator programme, Teni and her team are further equipped and motivated to expand their reach to more girls across Ghana.

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