Togo is a West African Nation on the Gulf of Guinea. It lies between Ghana and Benin and has a population of 7.6 million. Almost 7 out of 10 people in Togo live on less than $2 a day, making it one of the world’s poorest countries.

One of the problems that has plagued Togo in the past is inadequate education, which contributes to the country’s poverty. Education is a key component in preventing and eradicating poverty. Due to government action and help from aid organizations, which have contributed billions to the cause, the education system in Togo has improved. However, due to the gender inequality inherent in the structure of the society, women are still less likely to benefit from these improvements.

Girls’ Education in Togo: The Facts

According to UNICEF, 44.5 percent of Togolese women between the ages of 15 and 24 cannot read or write. Education is hard to come by regardless of gender in Togo, but inequality in the country makes it even more difficult for girls to enroll in and stay in school. Close to 30 percent of children in Togo are forced into child labor, and the majority of them are girls. “Porter children” consist mostly of young girls who transport burdens to various market stalls.

Prostitution and Human Trafficking

Every year, thousands of Togolese girls unwittingly enter into prostitution and other forms of servitude. They are sold into the trade by family members or older female traffickers in their communities known as ogas. These ogas are often former victims themselves, creating a circular system of trafficking. The girls are sent to work in nearby countries and communities. Other girls turn to prostitution as a source of income to support themselves and their families. Whatever the situation, all of these girls are at high risk of STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and physical and sexual abuse.

If the girls manage to escape sexual slavery, they often end up living in porterhouses on the streets of Togo, shunned by family members and society.

Child Marriage

Another significant barrier to education for girls in Togo is child marriage. Nearly 25 percent of girls in the country are forcibly married before the age of 18. Once these girls have to take on the roles of wives and mothers, they do not have the time to pursue an education. Due to cultural norms, girls are also trained from a young age on how to be good wives rather than being taught the importance of education.

Progress for Female Education

Despite the barriers to girls’ education in Togo, progress is being made in various ways:

  • The government has been putting in considerable effort in the past few years to improve the country’s education system. The primary education system is now free, so parents in rural areas no longer have to pay for their child’s first six years of education.
  • Togo joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2010 and received a $45 million grant, which yielded impressive results. As of June 2014, the country received another $27.8 million grant. This grant is even more devoted to strengthening girls’ enrollment in school. One of its three core components is, “Strengthening access and equity in primary education through school construction and equipment, promoting girls’ schooling, and provision of uniforms and sanitary kits.”
  • Togo has also developed an education strategy for the years 2014 to 2025, with the goal to “develop a quality basic education to achieve universal primary education by 2022.”
  • There have been many successes as a result of the funding that Togo has received. The country’s repetition rate decreased from 18.5 percent in 2013 to 8.38 percent in 2016. During that time, 14,549 primary teachers and head teachers were trained in the use of the new curriculum.
  • In 2015, the primary completion rate for girls rose to 78.5 percent from 55.8 percent in 2008. The Primary Gross Enrollment rate has risen substantially as well.

Education is often forgotten as an essential tool in the reduction of poverty. When women are educated, they contribute to the economy and alleviate poverty. Time will tell how the grant and education strategy in Togo will play out, but the statistics are encouraging. With continued effort, Togo’s goal of universal primary education by 2022 can be fulfilled.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Togo is a largely underrepresented country when it comes to global poverty awareness. Up until about 500 years ago, nothing about the area was known. Togo is an African country sandwiched between Benin and Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea. It is characterized by palm-lined beaches, hilltop villages and phosphate production. Although Togo is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, an otherwise prosperous resource used in fertilizers, its inhabitants remain poor and almost entirely dependent on humanitarian foreign aid. Thus, the rates of poverty in Togo are very high.

Nearly 81.2 percent of Togo’s rural population lives under the global poverty line. This makes Togo one of the world’s poorest countries. Child welfare is a huge issue, as 49.5 percent of those impoverished are under 18 years of age. One out of every eight Togolese children will not live to see their fifth birthday. Many face disease, as well as violence and exploitation at the hands of corrupt labor forces and human trafficking. Although the Togolese put a lot of value into education, most children are unable to continue schooling, as their parents cannot afford it.

For years, Togo has been the target of criticism for its human rights policies and poor governance. Developmental aid for Togo was halted in 1992 due to poor governance and human rights issues. In the past, it has gained notoriety as a transit spot for ivory taken from poached elephants and rhinos. For many, this criminal behavior is an act of desperation, as poverty in Togo is so high that many see no other alternative.

However, work is being done. In 2015, Togo began making strides towards eliminating the worst forms of child labor. The Togolese government adopted a new penal code that would implement harsher penalties for human traffickers and other forms of child abuse. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children also endorsed a new Protective Policy Document on Child Domestic Work which would launch movements to help vulnerable children access education.

As Togo relies heavily on NGOs and international organizations, it is also important that foreign governments help these children by supporting laws such as the Education for All Act.  Acts like this one would help to ensure that children similar to those in Togo receive a better education and opportunities.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr