Minister of Grassroots Development, Craft Industry, Youth and Employment of the Youth of Togo
In Togo, a General Directorate for the Advancement of Women has existed since 1977, the Ministry for the Promotion of Women was established in 2010, and a National Policy on Gender Equality and Equity was adopted in 2011.
Victoire Tomegah-Dogbé became in 2009 the first woman to serve as presidential chief of staff, since then she has been serving her country to promote women and the youth.
—In 2009, you were the first woman to become Minister-Director of the Cabinet HEM Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, President of the Republic of Togo. Tell us how did it happen?
Before being chosen by the Head of State to direct his office, I was active in the Togolese private sector and at the international level. I helped in the development of several private companies before being recruited, in 1999, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). I then worked for UNDP in several African countries (Congo Brazzaville, Burkina Faso, Benin) before returning, in 2008, to serve my country’s government as Minister, delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of Grassroots Development.
This varied background has helped to give me broad experience at both the human and social levels. One must constantly work at self-assertion, at developing abilities and skills, and to take initiatives that make a difference in society. Every day, I try to face up to this challenge.
—You are a key player in promoting the role of youth and women in economic development. What does that imply?
Togo’s population is predominantly young. When young people are well educated, well supervised, and are factored into development policies and strategies, they become the nation’s strength and its primary human resource.
My department is responsible for implementing the national policies on youth development and youth employment.
Within this framework, and under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Togo, we have drawn up a national strategic plan for youth employment and have taken initiatives to increase socio-economic inclusion among the youth. This is done through several schemes, which includes the National Program for Voluntary Service (PROVONAT), the National Fund for Inclusive Finance (FNFI), the Support Fund for Youth Initiatives (FAIEJ) and the Grassroots Development Support Programme (PRADEB). These schemes attempt, not only to improve the employability and civic engagement of our youth, but also to promote entrepreneurship and self-employment among young people.
They have already brought tens of thousands of young people into the workforce, given them technical guidance and helped them access financing tailored to their needs, while developing their civic and citizenship values.
Recent figures show that unemployment rate dropped from 6.5% in 2011 to 3,4% in 2015. This is undoubtedly because of the pragmatic policies and strategies that the Togolese Government has put in place to boost employment. Unfortunately, we still face the challenge of underemployment.
In future years, we plan to continue along the same lines, for example to:
- Further strengthen the entrepreneurial ability of our youth.
- Promote their inclusion in promising sectors (agriculture, environment, etc.).
- Facilitate their access to innovative financing.
- Support retraining of young graduates in their struggle to enter workforce.
—Are there also volunteer programs that support women and facilitate their access to the workplace?
Yes indeed. Four years ago, Togo developed a program that encourages national voluntary service and is aimed at enhancing the employability and civic engagement of our young people. These young people, motivated by commitment, sharing and solidarity, are enlisted in various sectors such as Agriculture, Health and Education. Especially for young women, Justice, Community Development, Infrastructure and new Information Technologies also have a role to play. The program, which enjoyed considerable success, was recently converted into a national volunteer agency (ANVT) that pays special attention to positive action on gender. Young women represent 34% of the program’s volunteers and it is estimated that 40% of them have found sustainable employment!
In addition, many young women- entrepreneurs are supported by our various funding mechanisms.
—Could you briefly describe the position of women in the workplace?
Gender inequalities continue to exist, and, sadly, are still present in Togo’s social and economic structure, especially in regard to women’s access to resources and their role in decision-making. Some 23% of young women have no qualifications, as opposed to 17% of boys. Only 15% of women completed secondary education, while the corresponding figure is 45% for men. Additionally, women have limited access to land and other facilities. These factors make it more difficult for them to find adequate employment and limit their social mobility.
The programs that we implemented have enabled hundreds of thousands of women to become economically active.
The programs that we implemented have enabled hundreds of thousands of women to become economically active and affect positively a large number of young women.
For example, FAIEJ, the youth initiatives fund, and AJSEF, which promotes youth access to economic and financial services strongly supported by the West African Development Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB ) and the UNDP, are facilitating the inclusion of the youth in promising sectors of the economy and gender promotion activities. Another project supported by the AfDB called PAIEJ-SP aims at reducing the combined rate of unemployment and underemployment among young women by providing support to the 650 young female entrepreneurs and the 5,712 women in producer organizations.
—Did you have a role model, when you were growing up?
Yes. In Togo, I admired a wonderful woman, committed to her goals, hard working, disciplined, but generous and gentle, who always inspired me. My mother…
—Do you have a message for women across the world?
Sometimes we have to fight twice as hard just because we are women. But our smaller numbers in decision-making areas should not be seen as a sign of inferiority; instead, we must strengthen our community roots as basis for further development. We must show ourselves to be determined, willing, and committed; must strive to both defend and deserve our rightful place in society; and must remember that woman is the mother of nations. That it is up to us to ensure a better world for the coming generations.