When I tell friends and family that I work with Pathways Togo to promote girls’ education and empowerment in Togo, they assume that it is a natural continuation of my Peace Corps service there from 2009 to 2011. It absolutely is a continuation of that service, but it is also more. As a Peace Corps Volunteer you can affect certain things, and there are many things that you cannot affect. Similarly, now that I am in the United States, there are connections in Togo that are difficult to maintain, but there are other doors that have opened.
I was a Girls’ Education and Empowerment Volunteer in Togo. Formally, I was aligned with the Ministry of Education and I did teach in a CEG/Lycee (middle/high school). I taught an English class as well as Sex Ed. However, my main project was working to reduce sexual harassment in the classroom. That is, sexual harassment from male teachers towards female students.Read more
By Board Member Stephanie Palmer
I’m dozing on a mat in the shade outside my hut, trying to keep cool from the intense heat in the small village of Glitto, Togo, where I served in the United States’ Peace Corps from 2001-2004. A small voice comes through the gate to my house: “Tanti, a do le hum!” (Auntie, I’m hungry!). It’s Habiba, the daughter of my host father’s fourth wife, and my favorite among the many children in the compound. Habiba is around seven years old and my constant companion: when she’s not at school or in the fields, she’s at my house, helping me with my chores or playing games. In the late afternoon, we often go to the village market for a snack and then to visit some of my friends around the village before she needs to be home to help her mother cook dinner.
When I first arrived in Glitto, Habiba was not yet in school and spoke only Mina, the most commonly spoken language in our village, where more than 20 different languages were spoken. Despite her age, Habiba taught me many things: basic Mina, so I could communicate with others in the community; how to light and fan a fire; and the many delicious foods Togo has to offer by her pointing to them in the market, and then me handing over some money to the market woman.
Through Peace Corps training and working in the schools in my village, I knew that most girls do not attend school, even elementary school. So, when Habiba was old enough to go to school, I was pleased that her father enrolled her, as he did for his sons. Because my host family was so generous to me, often providing me meals and always offering company and assistance, I told my host father that I would like to pay Habiba’s school fees and buy her uniforms and school supplies. Of course, her family was thrilled, and I loved feeling useful to my family.
Unfortunately, my Peace Corps service came to an end all too soon, and I had to leave my host family and village. At that time, there was no phone service at all in my village or anywhere nearby, and I soon lost touch. To this day, I don’t know what happened to Habiba, who would now be in her early 20’s. Did she finish elementary school? Middle school or even high school? Statistics from Togo suggest not: even as recent as 2014, only 53% of girls enrolled in primary education finish and females are much less likely than males to enroll in secondary and university education (http://uis.unesco.org/country/TG).
I’ve thought a lot about Habiba and her family in the years since I left Togo, and this is one of the reasons I decided to join the board of Pathways Togo: there are many girls and young women in Togo who do not have the opportunity to go to school, particularly past elementary school. Pathways Togo’s model of providing comprehensive support to its scholars throughout their educational cycle, rather than just providing a year or two of tuition, increases the likelihood that these young women can succeed. While I may not have been able to provide this support to Habiba, I am committed to providing this support to as many young women as possible through Pathways Togo.
Support Stephanie's match campaign in memory of her father, John Palmer. John's Match
In addition to grants and holiday fundraising appeals, Pathways Togo board members also initiate personal fundraising campaigns to raise money on behalf of Pathways Togo and our scholars. This month, board member Stephanie Palmer is honoring the memory of her father with a match campaign.
One of the unique challenges of Pathways Togo is that while the Pathways Togo board is based in the United States, the real work takes place in Togo, where our scholars are supervised by our dedicated staff in Togo. Members of our board visit Togo at least once a year. Since all but one of our board members is a RPCV that served in Togo, a visit to Togo is a trip down memory lane and is a highly anticipated event. Last month, our treasurer, Nadia McInnis, flew to Togo to meet with our new finance officer, Yashmine Agbere and work with her to establish updated financial protocols. While there, Nadia was also able to deliver much needed office equipment to the staff, and attend the annual Life Skills Conference in Pagala, where she met our current scholars. This year's conference theme was De jeunes filles innovatrices à des femmes entrepreneures/ Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurship through economic and social empowerment.
Today is International Women's Day and Pathways Togo is commemorating the day over on Facebook with posts throughout the day.
On this post, you can find all the media we posted today!Read more