5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Togo
Togo is a small country in West Africa. Like other developing countries, many people in Togo have made the realization that gender equality and women’s rights would lead to a thriving, more prosperous community. Although recognizing the issue is a crucial and necessary step, actions are needed to see real change. This article examines 5 facts about women’s rights in Togo.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Togo

  1. In 2007, Togo adopted a law that prohibits sexual assault, early and forced marriage, exploitation, female genital mutilation and sexual harassment. Yet, women are still lacking in information and education when it comes to their rights, which means marital rape and domestic violence are still common in Togo regardless of the law.
  2. There is a 10-day national conference held every year in Togo called the Women’s Wellness and Empowerment Conference (WWEC). The conference brings women leaders from across Togo together. The Peace Corps’ goal for the WWEC is to empower women, advocate gender equality and education and encourage the community to engage with one another.
  3. For women, there is a substantial drop in literacy rates from primary education (72 percent) to secondary education (14 percent). One of the reasons for this extremely high drop-out rate is because of early pregnancies. The high number of early pregnancies is because sex education, contraceptives and family-planning are all non-existent in Togo, making it extremely difficult for women to take charge of their bodies and futures.
  4. According to the World Bank’s country report, women lack economic opportunities and are rarely represented in high-level positions. This hurts society as a whole. The International Labour Organization stated that more female participation in the workforce would result in faster economic growth. Although there is a law in Togo that constitutes equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, women’s rights activist Berthe Adjoavi Tatey stated that this law is not acted upon. She claimed that women continue to have inadequate access to financial services. Sophie Ekue, a journalist in Togo said, “women are the belt that holds men’s trousers. And it is high time that this changes–for the benefit of the whole society.”
  5. Women are becoming more involved politically. As of 2010, nine members of the National Assembly and seven ministers in the Cabinet were women. In 2012, Togolese women organized a week-long “sex-strike.” The goal of the strike was to pressure President Faure Gnassingbe to resign. Women who wanted to take part in the strike were asked to withhold sex from their husbands. The goal was to convince men to also take action against the president. Togolese women have also led two naked protests. The first was following the sex-strike in August 2012, and the second was in September 2017. The goal of the protests was the same as the sex-strike: mobilize men against the president.

With the uprise of gender equality laws, female-led protests and national women’s conferences, Togo is looking toward a better future as far as gender equality and women’s rights are concerned. These 5 facts about women’s rights in Togo show there is still room to improve. It is essential that Togo continues to focus on advancements for women so there can be political, educational and financial equality between both genders in Togo, creating a strong flourishing community.

– Malena Larsen
Photo: Flickr

Togo Women Empower Themselves
The West African country of Togo has a long history of military rule and had General Gnassingbé Eyadema installed as president from 1967 until his death in 2005. Under his leadership, many human rights abuses were reported and he tightly controlled all aspects of the Togo government.

Soon after General Eyadema died, his son Faure Gnassingbé was appointed as president by the Togo military. However, he yielded to the objections of foreign and domestic protesters and held elections. He won the elections, but the legitimacy of the elections have been a subject of ongoing debate, and his presidency remains controversial because his family has essentially maintained a 50-year-long dynasty in Togo. However, under his rule Togo has demonstrated gradual democratic improvement, holding legislative elections in 2013 and a presidential vote in 2015 that was deemed credible by the international community.

Women in Togo

Although women in Togo are legally considered equal to men, in many ways they are treated as second-class citizens. Togolese women are three times less likely to be sent to primary school, they experience a great deal of discrimination both in searching for work and once they find a job and they must defer to their husbands or brothers when it comes to managing the household. A woman, according to Togolese tradition, can never be the head of her own household. Although women in Togo are positioned as the inferior sex according to the customs of the country and gender discrimination is still prevalent, they still empower themselves by finding unique and creative ways to get their voices heard.

Sexual Boycott

In 2012, a group of Togolese women from an organization called Let’s Save Togo resolved to go on a sex strike in a hope of persuading their male counterparts to take a stand against President Gnassingbé. This sexual boycott, also known as a Lysistrata, was inspired by the Liberian activists who held their own sex strike in protest of violence against women in 2003. Though the Togolese president ultimately did not step down at that point as a result of the strike, it was a notable example of how a nominally disenfranchised group could find a way to speak out and take a stand.

The movement opposing the rule of President Faure Gnassingbé is still very much in effect and Togolese women continue to play a critical role despite the dangers associated with trying to topple such a powerful man. The market women of Togo are largely responsible for financing the opposition to Eyedema, and in return, two of their buildings have been burned down by the government. Though officially a republic, Togo has essentially operated as a dictatorship, with the same family in power for over 50 years, and the Togolese women have had enough.

Plan International Togo

Faced with economic and political challenges in a country that still has a dismal ranking of 134th in U.N. Women’s Gender Inequality Index, Togo women empower themselves with an inner strength and resilience that transcends generations of oppression. The nongovernmental organization Plan International Togo is lending their support with a variety of programs for women and girls. They are providing health education, early marriage prevention and training on citizenship and the basics of government so that women can become more active in the political process.

Togolese women have always been on the front lines of political change, even fighting increased taxation during the period of French colonialism. They continue to make great strides, seemingly undaunted by the limitations that society has tried to impose on them. The way that Togo women empower themselves today would make their predecessors very proud.

– Raquel Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Togo Charity Works to Help Rural Villages Out of PovertyTogo has struggled to lift its citizens, especially those in rural areas, out of poverty and to ensure adequate access to necessities such as sanitation and drinking water.

A report by the International Monetary Fund found that in 2011, the percent of the rural population that lived below the poverty line was 73.4 percent. In urban areas, the rate was 44.7 percent.

Water Sanitation and Access to Clean Water

Specifically in regards to water sanitation and drinking water, work has been done by various organizations to improve access to these necessities, and as a result, help rural villages out of poverty.

The Water Governance Facility (WGF), backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stated on its website that in 2015, 63 percent of Togo’s urban population had access to drinkable water, while in rural areas only 44 percent had access. The same report found that only 11 percent of Togo’s population benefited from water sanitation facilities.

These statistics were reported as part of a larger program called Governance, Advocacy and Leadership in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene that was implemented by the WGF in conjunction with the UNDP from 2014 to 2017.

The Power of Local Aid Groups

However, assistance has also come from organizations closer to home, which strive to help rural villages out of poverty and address its accompanying effects.

Recently, the Togo charity Christian Charity for People in Distress (CCPD) was awarded the Kyoto World Water Grand Prize for the work it has done to help a village of 290 people improve its water sanitation.

CCPD is based in Kpalimé, Togo and was created in April 2004 as a nonprofit Christian charity. The organization’s mission statement declares that its goal is to help rural villages out of poverty by further developing water access, sanitation and hygiene, as well as improving agricultural development, the environment and education.

On its website, CCPD lists four main objectives it seeks to accomplish through its charity work:

  • Protecting the rights of women and children.
  • Assisting the rural population of Togo in obtaining decent education and healthcare, and providing access to drinking water and sanitation.
  • Helping to economically develop rural areas by working alongside farmers to generate more income.
  • Facilitating food self-sufficiency in rural areas of Togo.

Making a Difference

Since 2006, CCPD’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs have aided more than 6,000 people. These programs usually involve the construction of wells, latrines and ECOSAN toilets, which is a waterless toilet designed to save water in countries that do not have water security. In addition, CCPD has worked to help rural villages out of poverty by providing school supplies to primary and secondary school students, aided in the construction of new schools and improved computer skills in adults and children.

The charity is the second African organization to win the Kyoto World Water Grand Prize, which will not only improve sanitation and water conditions, but will also decrease deaths related to illnesses such as cholera that are caused by poor sanitation.

CCPD has been aiding impoverished, rural areas of Togo since its creation, and does far more than just water and sanitation work. The charity’s efforts in regards to education, agricultural development, business development and environmental protection have all impacted communities in Togo and given them the help they need to transition out of poverty.

– Jennifer Jones

sustainable agriculture in TogoTogo is a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea known for its palm-lined beaches and hilltop villages. With 32 percent of the population living below the poverty line, there have been efforts made toward improving sustainable agriculture in Togo.

Togo’s small sub-Saharan economy is dependent on both commercial and subsistence agriculture, with cocoa, coffee and cotton generating about 40 percent of export earnings. Additional products include beans, cassava, fish, livestock, maize, millet, rice, sorghum and yams. Of the nation’s total land area, 44 percent is used for cultivated crops and two percent for permanent crops like fruit- and nut-bearing trees.

The organization Fly for Life is a nonprofit with the mission to promote sustainable tourism and organic farming by improving the environment, education and incomes of farming communities. Jeremies Pimzi, a social entrepreneur, founded Fly for Life. With help from eco-volunteers, the organization has been able to successfully provide more sustainability in Togo, such as training programs in organic methods, sustainability education and financial management.

Eco-volunteers provide skills and training on increasing sustainable tourism and organic farming. In exchange, the volunteers gain firsthand knowledge about the local customs and culture and develop close relationships with the Togolese. Some of the funding from volunteers has also supported education in the small farming communities of Havu and Soumdina Mountain Village, helping families afford school for their children.

Over 90 percent of the small communities that Fly for Life engages with are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Environmental issues in Togo include deforestation due to slash-and-burn agriculture, the use of wood for fuel and water pollution. The nonprofit aims to transition the nation from unsustainable farming practices to organic methods.

Another key project that addressed sustainable agriculture in Togo was USAID WAFP, or West Africa Fertilizer Program, which occurred from 2012-2017. The project was meant to improve the supply and distribution of appropriate and affordable fertilizers in West Africa. The project broadened its reach to have regional impact across the West Africa sub-region, benefiting 15 ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries as well as Mauritania and Chad.

To accomplish its goal, WAFP focused on creating a conducive policy for increased investment in the fertilizer business. It facilitated access to business, investment and financing information that allowed the private sector to deliver quality and affordable fertilizers to farmers.

Because of the work of organizations and the implementation of eco-friendly ideas and practices, there can be better, more sustainable agriculture in Togo.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in TogoTogo, a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea, shares a border with Ghana and has an estimated population of 7.6 million as of 2016. Togo is working towards improving its economy and relations by improving the country’s infrastructure.

Infrastructure is a crucial platform that supports countries, whether it be via economic or social means. Oftentimes, basic infrastructure such as power and water are lacking or in need of upgrades to sustain communities and development.

Power infrastructure in Togo is being improved with support from investors and consultation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC). ContourGlobal, a power company, is helping Togo meet the growing demand for power. The IFC is investing 20 percent equity in ContourGlobal for the development and operation of a 100-megawatt power plant located in Togo’s capital, Lomé. It now produces enough electricity for the city and will soon be enough to sustain regional power supplies. Electricity infrastructure in Togo has proven reliable and efficient in assisting communities as well as encouraging investment in infrastructure that will prove successful for Togo in the long run.

The World Bank has also assisted Togo with infrastructure development. The Emergency Infrastructure and Electricity Rehabilitation Project (PURISE) will support the Togolese government in restoring and expanding infrastructure in Togo. This project will improve urban mobility and access to remote locations as well as provide temporary work for workers in Togo.

PURISE is split into four categories, each one focused on areas needing improvement. One of the categories will focus on the drainage of unclean drinking water and replace outdated gutters with sustainable drainage networks. Water infrastructure in Togo is also seeing improvement via projects. One of the categories in PURISE is set to increase water access and improve the quality of drinking water. This will be achieved with networks of water systems between communities and installing pipes and water kiosks.

UNICEF states that 39 percent of Togolese do not have access to clean water and a quarter of the Togolese population does not have access to water within walking distance. The government of Togo has made commitments to improving water and sanitation, including eliminating open defecation and establishing sanitation and hygiene resource departments.

Infrastructure in Togo is slowly growing throughout the country. With investments being made in basic resources, Togo is sure to see beneficial modernization.

– Jennifer Serrato

Photo: Flickr

Focus on Farm Development Projects in Togo
Two out of five Togolese live on less than $1.25 a day and a quarter of all children under the age of five are malnourished. In addition, one-third of the population is in need of clean drinking water. Adopting a democracy in 2012, Togo has expanded its parliament ideals with a focus on developing the country for the betterment of its people. As the country crafts various projects for maturation of the economy and land, one of the main development projects in Togo is farm development. But why?


Why Agriculture is Important to Togo

Agriculture is the cornerstone of Togolese economy. Developing agriculture is critical in the fight against poverty and food security since about eighty percent of the people live off farming.

In 2015, 55 percent of households were below the poverty line, mostly those in rural communities. Due to the high rate of rural poverty, the World Bank and the Global Agriculture and Food and Security Program (GAFSP) invested in Agriculture Sector Support Project (PASA) to help almost 14,000 smallholder farmers and 3,300 livestock farmers enhance their livelihoods and provide a better future for themselves and families. The GAFSP was established in 2010 as a multi-donor trust fund to improve food security in the world’s poorest countries.


Going Green for Agriculture

Since 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development started the Green Innovation Centres which focus on enhancing Food and Nutrition Security in Togo.

The objectives of the first project have been to increase the incomes of small farming enterprises, improve the regional food supply in rural target regions and boost employment. For the second project, the objective is making sure members of households at risk of malnutrition, even during a food crisis, have sufficient supplies of healthy food in their possession at all times. With this being part of the development projects in Togo for the next six years, the country could see a significant decrease in their malnutrition rates.


Other Development Projects in Togo

Other development projects in Togo have also risen throughout the years. For instance, the $26.2 million Urban Development project concluded in 2002, and assisted helping the urban development policy with several objectives, including laying the groundwork for innovations needed to reform the management of urban development in Togo and strengthening local governments ability to administer the city.

Approved in 2015, the development projects of Togo have focused on mining, university education and public administration. These projects totaled $15.20 million and have a closing date of December 31st, 2020.

Though other development projects in Togo may bring improvement to infrastructure and education, soon many more citizens can sleep with a full belly and retain profits from their farming labor.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to TogoIn 2005, consecutive food and nutrition crises combined with political violence left Togo crippled as a society and in dire need of basic essentials for survival. Over the next eight years, 10 million people faced food shortages and 1.4 million children were at risk for malnutrition.

Despite the conditions leaving the country in dire straits, humanitarian aid to Togo has been present both within its borders and beyond. More than 20,000 Togolese fled after the presidential election in 2005 to the nearby country of Benin to take refuge. Apportioned under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel, €1.05 million was given to refugees through the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Union. Meeting refugees’ needs in terms of food aid, temporary shelter, primary health care and access to water, sanitation and essential items was the focus of the commission’s humanitarian aid. This also covered expenses for any refugee who wanted to return home to Togo, in accordance with the policy of voluntary return and international rules.

During the following years, Togo received various assistance from multiple countries. In 2012, €174 million was given to the emergency humanitarian response from the European Commission. In 2016, the United States gave $13.5 million in aid to develop the health, security and education spheres. Through the Humanitarian Assistance Program and the Department of Defense, schools and clinics receive funding and an HIV/AIDS prevention program is in place, as well as several civil engineering projects.

In 2017, AFRICOM was the only construction aid program in Togo. AFRICOM, in partner with the U.S. Army Corps Engineers European District, has $1.8 million in recent construction and renovation projects in progress. Humanitarian aid to Togo has built schools, medical clinics and garbage depots.

Although still recovering from issues in the past, humanitarian aid to Togo is still effective. With time and an increase of aid, true normalcy will exist in Togo, but currently the citizens are grateful for what they have. “Only God can learn the joy I have in my heart. We were waiting a long time for this project,” said village chief Togbui Yegbe Kokou Kini from Gblainvie, Togo. His statement exemplifies the success of humanitarian aid across Togo.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Why is Togo PoorTogo is a relatively small sub-Saharan nation that is situated along the Gulf of Guinea with a population of approximately 7.6 million people. A 2008 UNICEF report found that 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lived below the poverty line, making it one of the “world’s poorest countries.”

Why is Togo poor? And what is being done to combat poverty in Togo?

Here are six factors that can help begin to answer the question “why is Togo poor?”

  1. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook stated that the adult literacy rate in Togo is 63.7 percent, which makes it difficult for Togo to participate in the rapidly evolving global economy. Furthermore, young girls are often not able to attend schools because they are wedded off at a young age—and many families often have to sacrifice education in order to allocate money to food.
  2. The United Nations reported that over 100,000 people live with HIV/AIDS and nearly 68,000 children are left without families as a result—yet absent a robust healthcare system (and the appropriate resources), Togo has a difficult time responding to and controlling disease outbreaks. Life expectancy in Togo is only 65 years.
  3. There is widespread water insecurity. Only 63 percent of the Togolese people have access to sanitary water available for consumption often leading to the spread of waterborne diseases.
  4. Poor governmental infrastructure that pervades Togo often hinders foreign investment in agriculture, which accounts for a large proportion of exports. Government corruption is also prevalent which often hinders meaningful policy action and prevents democracy.
  5. Child labor and sexual exploitation prevent Togo from fostering a generation of youth that is equipped to participate in the global economy. Forty-seven percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work in agriculture which prevents them from getting an education.
  6. A UNICEF study found that the rate of severe malnutrition among children under the age of five exceeds 10 percent and is thus higher than the critical level determined by the World Health Organization. The same study also reported that 108 out of 1,000 children will die before their fifth birthday because of malnourishment. Inability to produce a healthy generation only serves to further answer the question “why is Togo poor?”

Despite the widespread structural poverty that pervades Togo, international organizations and non-governmental organizations have mounted an effort to alleviate poverty.

The World Bank has launched several projects in Togo focused on “macroeconomic recovery and stability, health, agriculture, education and more.”  Notably, the group has built 325 primary school classrooms and provided $26.1 million for infrastructural development in impoverished communities.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Togo a beneficiary of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative which provides debt relief as a poverty reduction strategy. In addition, the World Food Programme has provided assistance to groups affected by natural disasters and high food prices in an effort to reverse the political and economic turmoil that Togo has been confronted with.

As demonstrated by the World Bank, IMF and WFP, meaningful foreign aid and reform must be structural if it is to produce sustainable and long-lasting results.

Hannah Ritner

Photo: Flickr

Help People in TogoTogo is an African country that values education, even though “more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line.” There is a need to help people in Togo receive proper education to prevent further poverty and to empower its women and youth. The different ways to help people in Togo revolve around these factors.

Accessible Education
Over the last decade, Togo has benefited from free basic education. Previously, a basic education was less accessible to children simply because their families could not afford the yearly fees. The efforts to help people in Togo ensure that families were not keeping their children out of school because of fees have continued to this day.

However, 20 percent of children still do not attend school and 30 percent must work to aid their families. Advocating for primary education to be a requirement for all Togolese children is the next step towards progress. Nonetheless, funding Togo’s schools ensures they will not be forced to charge families once again.

As for the quality of that education, it is crucial to hire adequate teachers who do not utilize child labor for the teacher’s own economic gain. Moreover, for the children’s safety and for a more effective learning environment, most buildings require extensive maintenance and infrastructure improvements. For example, many schools in Togo do not have electricity.

Efforts made by organizations partnered with Togo have seen improvement. Even with a standard class size of 80 children, non-government organizations have provided students with necessary materials and other forms of aid.

Providing adequate education allows Togo’s young adults to trust their own educated minds to help them make a difference in their country. This idea has already started to bear fruit, as a number of Togolese are working to foster innovation and healthful practices among their fellow citizens.

Sename Koffi Abdojinou founded WoeLab, an organization that utilizes renewable resources to create technology to help people in Togo. For example, a member named Afate Gnikou made a 3D printer out of e-waste alone.

Kokou Senaméa youth from Togo, advocates for sexual education. He feels that youth leadership is vital and that youths should be able to educate one another about contraceptives. The voice of a peer is very impactful when it comes to topics with intense stigmas. Sexual education is extremely important in a country with about 120,000 people with HIV. Educating youths to use protection also helps prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Safe Childbirth
UN Women works to protect the life and health of pregnant women. In 2010, there were “287,000 maternal deaths…in Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Togo.” Without proper healthcare and education, pregnancy puts mothers and their children at risk.

To help people in Togo, UN Women is advocating for adequate training for midwives and other health workers, ensuring a safer birthing process.

Empowering women to gain adequate knowledge regarding childbirth and child rearing is the first step towards alleviating poverty. Once Togolese mothers are properly cared for, they can advocate for their own children to value education and provide youths with the confidence to fight for change.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in TogoAlthough it is a small country wedged between Ghana and Benin, the most common diseases in Togo can have a major impact on many.

The World Health Organization reported that in 2014, a little over five percent of the country’s GDP expenses went toward health. The organization also listed a 2015 data finding that males and females between 15 and 60 had slightly different death rates: 309 out of 1,000 people for men versus 266 out of 1,000 people for women.

HealthGrove further put this into perspective, highlighting that out of 100,00 people, 1,266 die yearly in Togo, and listed the country’s life expectancy at 60 years.

Of the common diseases in Togo, those that can be transferred (communicable diseases) are some of the most prevalent.

Diarrhea, lower respiratory and other common infectious diseases
These accounted for a little less than 20 percent of deaths overall and slightly over 30 percent of communicable diseases specifically. Compared to 1990, in 2013 lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and meningitis all posed much lower threats of mortality.

HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
These diseases led to between 14 and 15 percent of deaths overall and over 22 percent of communicable disease-related deaths. While tuberculosis’s threat of death has decreased since 1990, HIV/AIDS has increased substantially—by 1,038 percent.

Neglected tropical diseases and malaria
These made up 12 percent of deaths in general and almost 19 percent of deaths from communicable diseases.
Malaria, rabies and schistosomiasis death rates all fell from 1990.

Neonatal disorders
These accounted for 10 to 11 percent of deaths total and over 16 percent of mortality rates due to communicable disease.

Nutritional deficiencies
These led to about four percent of deaths in general and between 6 to 7 percent of deaths for communicable diseases.

In addition, diseases that cannot be transferred—non-communicable diseases—are among some of the common diseases in Togo.

Cardiovascular diseases
As the most common of the non-communicable diseases, these accounted for a little less than 11 percent of deaths overall and over 35 percent of NCD-related deaths. Stroke, ischemic heart disease and other cardiovascular/circulatory disease rates all fell from 1990.

Diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases
In total, these only made up slightly more than five percent of deaths, but in terms of NCDs specifically, these increased to over 17 percent. While hemoglobinopathies and hemolytic anemias, as well as chronic kidney disease, both fell since 1990 (the latter only by one percent), diabetes mellitus actually increased by about 13 percent.

Cancer led to over four percent of deaths in general and over 14 percent of NCD-related deaths. Liver, cervical and stomach cancers all fell by over 30 percent from 1990.

There are still a number of improvements that can be made. For 2015, Togo qualified as a low-income food-deficit country and only slightly less than 12 percent of its citizens used improved sanitation facilities that year.

However, about 63 percent of the population in the same year utilized improved water drinking sources, 85 percent of one-year old children had measles immunizations and the mortality rate of children below five years old fell from about 108 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 78.4 in 2015.

The WHO released a report in February of this year detailing a meningococcal disease outbreak, but listed methods undertaken to address the matter, including requests for vaccinations, support for management and surveillance and the training of health personnel.

Applying these same tactics to the communicable diseases listed may be beneficial. Other methods, like increasing knowledge on how to reduce the spread of disease, as well as improving access to clean water and other nutritional sources could also be key.

Furthermore, for non-communicable diseases—though some may be genetic—tactics like increased exercise and diet changes may yield a reduction in their prevalence.

The nation must still make specific improvements to ensure that its population is healthy. But judging by the fluctuations of common diseases in Togo, there is great hope for a decrease in their pervasiveness.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr