Inclusive societies and development

Youth Inclusion Project - Gnassounou Mokpokpo Espé

 

“If we really want to live a better life and achieve our potential, we can do it! Young people can change things, everything lies in our hands.”

 

Gnassounou Mokpokpo Espé, 25, from Lomé, Togo


I was born in Lomé and I always lived here. My mother is a tailor and my father is a translator and a pastor. I have a degree in media studies and also started an undergraduate programme in sociology which I never finished. During my studies, I did an internship in a communications company for one year. My studies helped me a lot during the internship and vice versa. I think studies must mix practice and theory. By practicing in the field, young people can acquire concrete knowledge.

In the future, I would like to go back to university to finish my sociology degree. I couldn’t continue due to financial difficulties. There are some merit-based scholarships and other financial aids available for students. I once tried to submit my application, but the administrative officer asked for sexual favours in exchange. So despite being entitled for these benefits, I didn't apply. Such gender discrimination practices are quite common in Togo, including in the business world. For instance, when I was working in a company, a client asked me out on a date with him but I declined, and I lost my job shortly after that. In Togo, if women don't accept such offers, they are often penalised. People don't talk about it because they feel ashamed. Young people don't have access to sexual and reproductive health services at school, and they don't really go to the doctor nor dare to ask for information on sexual practices. Yet, young people have sexual relationships more and more early, even at the age of 13 or 15! I have some cousins far younger than me that already have children, and it’s a real struggle for them.

It is difficult to find a job here in Togo. Everyone complains about unemployment. Some young people volunteer for six years in companies before being employed! Even when you have work, you need at least two jobs to sustain yourself and make enough money. I've been creating pearl and loincloth accessories for a few years now to get some extra money. When I get orders, I can earn between 5000 and 15 000 FCFA per week. I also worked in a cultural centre as an assistant and volunteer at Amnesty International. In the future, I would like to open my own pearl accessories business with some friends. We could associate with craftsmen and sell our products abroad to Benin or Ghana. But everything is uncertain; we never know where life will take us, so we do the best we can.

Today, the environment is deteriorating, health remains a challenge and unemployment is a big issue. But if we really want to live a better life and achieve our potential, we can do it! Many young people can change things, everything lies in our hands. The State has abandoned its responsibilities, so we have to address problems on our own. Young people have to believe in themselves. Over the last years I participated in many youth summits and workshops in Togo and abroad. I would like to continue to work on development issues in Togo and raise awareness amongst young people of the issues in our country and of their role as active citizens.

 

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