Empowerment of youth and women in northern Togo

Photo credits: Action Education Afrique

The "Savanes Motaog" project, initiated by Action Education and Plan International in November 2020, supports young people and women in the northern part of Togo, a poor region highly exposed to security risks.

The Savanes region is located in the north of the country and represents 15% of the national territory. With a poverty rate of 65.1% (compared to 45.5% at the national level), it is the least developed part of Togo. Economic life is mainly dominated by food crops (sorghum, millet, etc.) and small-scale livestock farming.

Poverty and exclusion as well as the proximity of Islamist networks in Burkina Faso push some young people to choose extremism. Indeed, the main motivations for young people to join radical Islamist groups are often socio-economic (source of income, opportunity to assert themselves, to feel useful...). Following the terrorist attacks in the north of the country, the Togolese authorities declared a state of security emergency in the Savanes region on 13 June 2022. The Togolese executive is preparing an emergency programme for the Savanes region with the realisation of several projects by 2025, in the sectors of water, energy, health, infrastructure, education and agriculture.

Strengthening social cohesion

The "Savanes Motaog" project, which literally means " living together in the Savanes ", was launched in November 2020, for a period of 4 years. Action Education and Plan International are supported by two local partners, the NGO Femme, Droit, Développement en Afrique (WILDAF-Togo) and the Collectif des associations contre l'impunité au Togo (CACIT). It targets the 7 prefectures of the Savanes region, which includes 16 communes and 69 cantons.

The overall objective of the project is to strengthen social cohesion in the Savanes region. The project's audience consists of 6,200 unqualified young people between the ages of 15 and 35, 9,000 low-income women over the age of 35, as well as various civil society organisations and 15 media. Directly and indirectly, the project is expected to reach 512,000 people, i.e. 61% of the Savanes population.

The project aims to strengthen social cohesion in the Savanes region by promoting the political and economic rights of youth and women, strengthening civil society and building the capacity of state institutions at local level.

Microfinance initiatives through savings groups

As of 5 July 2022, 250 savings groups have been created, with 5,394 members, of which 4,747 are women.

Nanwapo Tchantague, 26 years old and a member of a savings group in Nanergou, says: " I joined the group without much conviction because here in our community the projects are often not serious. I was able to benefit from a loan of 60,000 CFA francs to reactivate an old loincloth business that I had abandoned for lack of funds. I have repaid the entire loan with interest and I am now considering a larger loan amount to develop my business. Thanks to this opportunity, I no longer feel too dependent on my husband who lives in Burkina Faso. I no longer lack money to take care of my two children. I even wanted to become a local volunteer in order to encourage and motivate the young people in our area to join the project, so that we can grow together. I hope we will succeed, I would be very happy and proud to have contributed to the development of my community members ."

Many other actions have been undertaken, such as :

  • Identifying young people potentially vulnerable to violent extremism ;
  • Training in local governance and security for local authorities in the three prefectures most exposed to extremism ;
  • The start of the advocacy process with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Education ;
  • Training of mediators from the seven prefectures on mediation techniques ;
  • Training of local civil society organisations on gender issues, social cohesion, conflict prevention and collaboration with local authorities; Etc.

Involving women and young people more

Gnandja Kpongou, municipal councillor of Kpendal, said following his participation in a capacity building workshop for local authorities on local governance and security: " It was a very practical workshop, it allowed us to see the link between local governance, security in general and violent extremism in particular. From now on, we will know how to govern better, by involving young people and women more, especially in the decisions that concern them ."

The project's achievements also include the training of 15 media on conflict prevention and management techniques, the development of content to promote social cohesion and peace, and the development of messages related to the needs and challenges of communities.

Jean Kantchéki, editor in chief at Radio des Savanes, says: "The Savanes Motaog project has allowed me to follow with great interest the training on the prevention of violent extremism, community conflict management and the consolidation of social cohesion. As a journalist, I can now design spots and magazines with key messages. Many listeners call in to testify that their attitudes and behaviour have changed positively thanks to these productions. ."

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