Pearl Phoolo – Leading Women In CSI – Month of February 2023

Pearl began her career at Standard Bank in 2017 and drives the strategic implementation of CSI initiatives.  Her role supports 3 pillars through strategic partnerships to make a socio-economic impact in the areas of education, employee engagement and disaster relief response. The latter becoming increasingly critical as the impacts of climate change are evidently escalating.

Education is at the heart of Pearl’s passion and in 2020 she began co-creating a programme with an enabling partner, Seriti Institute (NPC), which brought aReBapaleng (meaning Let’s Play – this is meant to stimulate a child’s critical thinking, encourage their ability to collaborate and allow creativity) into existence.  The model was designed to reach non-registered ECD centres and unqualified primary caregivers and teachers who are not resourced to the standard whereby they can access government subsidies.  This initiative focuses on under-served communities, empowers parents and equips caregivers.

Within the context of dynamic systemic challenges, a key approach taken was to tap into well-established and credible NPO’s and NGO’s, especially at grassroot level.  Combining the strengths of various organizations, made it possible to launch a programme with quality curricula resources, materials, and indigenous knowledge.   9 local partners and 9 implementation partners such as the Lego Foundation, Unicef and others resulted in the assurance that caregivers were equipped with the emotional, social and educational skills they need to develop young children.

To date, 4419 children between the ages of 0 – 8 gained access to the benefits of the programme.  1100 ECD teachers and caregivers received training through 197 active learning workshops.  The programme produced 93 caregiver network members who act as multiplication agents to drive the goal of reaching the development of 100,000 such teacher-trainers by 2024.

The success of the model attracted the attention of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme and in 2022 incorporated aReBapaleng into the National Youth Service funded by the National Youth Development Agency.  This has opened the door for hundreds of new job opportunities throughout the country and shows that strategic partnerships and a drive for excellence has the potential to expand the capacity of these initiatives beyond its source.

The strategic structuring of partnerships has also provided networks and funding access for smaller NGO’s and NPO’s to gain access to vital funding where they would normally be excluded due to risk, compliance, and governance requirements by larger corporates.  Nonetheless, this has protected the valuable work already done in communities and preserves the continuation of smaller NGO’s effort working through and with approved partners.

Pearl has seen the pain and disillusionment of unemployment in the eyes of many.  As a member of One Young World and deriving her inspiration from Africa’s first elected female president as head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Pearl is committed to act, make a difference and be a vessel for change.  

The magnetic leadership style embraces the consequential and fluid environment of structured collaboration with a tangible purpose for diversity, equality and inclusion, enabling her to stimulate and influence the sustainability of CSI programmes.

Simphiwe Mtetwa
Simphiwe Mtetwa is South Africa’s leading Corporate Social Responsibility news, media and publishing firm. We create content on social responsibility, helping government, corporates, consultants, NPOs and NGOs to reach their target markets through appropriate, targeted development news.

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