Inclusive societies and development

Youth Inclusion Project - Yao Koumedzro

 

“In five years, I see myself as the director of my graphic design company, introducing young Togolese designers to markets and businesses worldwide.”

 

Yao Koumedzro, 31, from Kpalimé, Togo

 

I am a graphic designer of books, poster adverts and magazines. I am also in charge of PROJAD, the Youth in Action for Development Program. The program provides at-risk youth – the very poor or drug addicted – with jobs, health services and educational support. In terms of their day-to-day survival, government doesn't provide any public services to these children, many of whom are orphans.

My five siblings and I were born in Tapagmé, which is in the plateau region northwest of Kpalimé. Both of my parents work: My father is a carpenter on public work projects, and my mother sells tomatoes. After high school, I left Tapagmé for Lomé to study language and communication at university. After two years, I switched to a vocational training programme in graphic design. I wasn’t enjoying my major at university and, honestly, it become too difficult to keep up with tuition payments. But graphic design excited me, so the two-year professional training programme was a perfect solution.

The AIDE programme of the Agence Nationale Pour L’emploi (national employment service)brought me to Kpalimé for my first graphic design job with a local printing press. But I had always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and so I set up my own studio. I am barely able to get by on what I earn, about 30,000 FCFA (about US$50) each week. There are even weeks when I make nothing. I need more clients and students but first, I have to find financing for better equipment, like computers. And government doesn't offer loans. But I know that I really only have myself – and perhaps friends and family – to depend on. For example, I have had friends bring me new graphic design clients.

I am glad that I’ve made the investments that I have in my education. My studies have shaped my ideas and helped me figure out what I want for myself. At the end of the day, even with all of our struggles, my generation is better off than my parents’. We know that if we want more and better, we can get there though schooling and hard work. 


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