Togo is located in West Africa and did not become independent until 1960, after being a German colony. The country is today relatively stable but at the same time faces major challenges with widespread unemployment, environmental problems, limited access to water and child labor.
Togo was a relatively well-functioning economy until the 1990s when the country was hit by political unrest. Today, the social and political situation is more stable and, according to the World Bank, the economy has recovered. At the same time, poverty is widespread. It has decreased but almost half of the population still lives below the poverty line, especially in rural areas, and many young people are unemployed. In addition, more than one in five children between the ages of five and fourteen perform work that can be harmful to their health. But figures from UNICEF show that this type of child labor is declining.
Togo’s environment is affected by the burning or deforestation of forests. This is done, among other things, so that the land can be cultivated and to get firewood to burn with. Air pollution is also increasing at the same time as a large part of the population lacks access to clean water.
Every fifth girl is married off
West and Central Africa are the regions where child marriage is most common in the world. In Togo, more than one in five girls is forced to marry before the age of 18. Child marriage is particularly common in the northern parts of the country, and in the far south. Religious traditions and dowry are two important elements in the negotiations before marriage. Just as in large parts of the world, girls are valued lower than boys and often have little say in decisions that concern themselves and their society. And even though marriage is not always the reason why girls drop out of school, many drop out just before they get married or just after, when they need to take care of the household.
This is what Plan International does in Togo
Plan International works to strengthen children and young people’s right to life, development, protection and participation in our programs in Togo. In connection with epidemics that have hit the country, such as lassa fever and meningitis, we make efforts to reach children and families affected by diseases. We also work with vocational training for young jobseekers and training programs for young people with disabilities. The latter helps to create self-confidence among young people and that attitude changes in the societies around them.
Many girls in Togo are trafficked, just like Anissa in the story below. Plan International has a program against trafficking and works, among other things, on the border between Benin and Togo so that girls who have been exposed can return to school or receive adult education. We also work preventively to inform about human trafficking.
The fight against trafficking in children
Hundreds of girls are trafficked and trafficked every year in Togo. Plan International is located at the borders to support girls who have returned and ensure that as few as possible are deceived.
The girls often receive promises of education or a good job, but are instead exploited and exposed to both physical and psychological violence by their new employers. Anissa, 17, is doing an internship to learn to weave, but a couple of years ago she was forced to look for a job in Benin. Anissa’s father died when she was 15 years old and the mother could not afford to pay the school fees.
– When I finished school, my mother was persuaded to send me to Cotonou in Benin so that I could have a better life there. I was taken there, but I only stayed four months because life became too difficult, says Anissa. She worked in a restaurant, long days without rest.
– I was first out of bed and last to go to bed. I worked without breaks and sometimes they woke me up in the middle of the night for me to work, she says.
Anissa asked her boss if she could go back, but the boss refused to pay for the four months that Anissa had already worked.
– Then I escaped. But when I got home, Mom wanted me to go back and find another job.
One day, Anissa met a friend. She had been involved in Plan International’s project against trafficking and told about how human trafficking works in their area. Anissa decided not to go back to Cotonou as planned. Instead, she was given the opportunity to stay and learn to weave. A year later, she earns some money of her own.
– I am very proud to have stayed, that I have learned something new and can cope in life. My happiness is here, I’m sure, says Anissa.
The world’s most important investment
School is an important place to learn, play and live. I’m very happy that my parents sent me to school. I do not want to disappoint them.
Dashi, 11 years old
Preschool is important for children’s cognitive, social and emotional development and forms the basis for further education. In Togo, however, only 16 percent of children between the ages of four and five are allowed to go to preschool and the majority of those who do not get it are girls. To increase knowledge about gender discrimination in schools and promote girls’ right to education, Plan International conducted training for 1,214 teachers and 446 citizens in local communities.
Independently through savings groups
Thanks to the savings group, I can buy underwear and other clothes myself and become more independent.
Biova, 15 years
Half of Togo’s population is under 18 years of age. They are the ones that will form the basis for Togo’s future development, but unemployment is very high and few have a stable economy. Girls and women are often outside financial decisions. During the past year, Plan International has started 422 new savings and loan groups that together reach 8,911 members. At the group meetings, young people receive training in personal finance, which strengthens their competence in how to best manage and ensure income-generating activities.
Facts about Togo
Population: 7.8 million
Life expectancy: 60 years
Infant mortality rate: 51 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 66.4%
Proportion of women in parliament: 18%