“In Togo, girls are sexually harassed or raped at school. It’s a huge problem. They are harassed by teachers and family members. This kind of violence means girls fall pregnant against their will. As a result, they drop out of school and have little chance of a positive future,” says Annie Tourette, 30, from Togo, who works for UN Volunteers Programme.
Determined to ensure future generations, don’t continue to suffer from violence, Annie enlisted the help of the Togolese Girl Guides for the project financed and implemented by the UN Volunteer Programme in Togo.
Many Girl Guides across Togo are taking a stand against violence through the Voices Against Violence curriculum, a joint initiative from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and UN Women. Keen to ensure violence is tackled on the school curriculum, Annie called on Girl Guides to train 500 volunteer teachers using skills and knowledge gained from their local guiding group.
“We want to ensure people know what a healthy relationship is,” says Annie. “When men and women are in violent relationships it is very dangerous. I’ve seen how it can affect people.”
For Annie, it’s been fascinating to see women lead training sessions, especially in a patriarchal society.
“There are four Girl Guides, two of whom are aged 22 and 23, training the teachers. They are amazing. Most of the volunteer teachers are older men who would typically dominate conversations. It’s great to see these Girl Guides speaking out and challenging men’s beliefs.”
The UN Volunteers project is having a huge impact and Annie is convinced it will continue.
“It’s so important for us to challenge gender stereotypes across Togo. The classroom is the perfect place to do it in as it is a way to change the mindset of future generations and help them see why violence should not be tolerated,” says Annie.
“It’s fascinating to see young people discussing the issue of violence, taking what they’ve learnt and challenging other people on the issue. Educating one person means educating a community!”