|Toussaint, President of|
Tchekpo M.A.P. Committee
M.A.P. falls under the umbrella of G.E.E. (Girls Education and Empowerment) There are four programs in Togo Peace Corps. S.E.D. (Small Enterprise Development) which is my program, C.H.A.P. (Health), N.R.M. (Natural Resource Management or agriculture/farming) and G.E.E. As Peace Corps Volunteers we have an intense nine weeks of training before we go to our villages. Emphasis is put on our particular program but all along the training encourages us to collaborate with other programs and volunteers from other programs.
|Hunon Koffi and his Moringa Seeds|
I especially enjoy bringing G.E.E programs to Tchekpo. I can see it’s an area where we can have a sustainable impact; empowering young girls. There is a coveted Peace Corps Scholarship program for girls called Pathways. Applying for it is a daunting task. I would compare it to applying for graduate school. This year 250 girls applied. Forty girls were awarded a scholarship Two of my girls from the Tchekpo High School are recipients. For this to happen I collaborated with volunteers from the G.E.E. program. In addition to the scholarship, they will be going to Pagala for a weeklong conference in September. The camp will include an agenda that will encourage them, teach them about self-esteem, how to write a resume' and help them decide what to study at the University.
|M.A.P. Training in Zafi|
However, it kind of got put on the back burner as other things became a priority. I would bring it up every time I saw Aloughba, Toussaint or Dove, but we just couldn’t seem to get things going. In November I asked Joe and Becky; two G.E.E. volunteers to come to my village to meet with some people who I thought would want to be involved. I told them I thought we just needed a kick-start. Joe and Becky came to Tchekpo and gave a great presentation, on why and how we should implement M.A.P. It worked. Two weeks later, I formed an official M.A.P. committee. Toussaint was President, Dove was secretary. We also recruited five or six others to be regular members and participate. I gave each of them a notebook with M.A.P. printed on it and nice pencils to take notes. I gave Toussaint a calendar notebook. This made them feel very official, and it made them feel like a team. They proceeded to set up a six month calendar, planning a M.A.P. event once a month for six months with different topics and for different audiences. To say I was impressed with their organizational abilities is putting it mildly. I remember telling them I wouldn’t be able to make one of the early meetings, and they said…”it’s ok, we don’t need you!!!” Music to my ears.
|Our First M.A.P. Event|
We have held three M.A.P. events. All have been very professional, successful and well received. The first events topic was about 'how men and women can understand and respond to each other’s day to day issues better.' We had about 40 participants for the first event. The topic for the second event was, 'how to live a positive life.' We had about 60 participants. The topic for the third event was 'how can men and women communicate better, more effectively?.' At the third event we had over 250 people in the audience.
We have the same format for each event. First we introduce the topic. Next we have individual presenters speak and cover certain areas of the topic, and then they put on a couple sketches to demonstrate. At the end we have questions and answers and participation from the audience. We have added one more element as we go forward, and that is to have a guest speaker.
One thing that has not been mastered in Togo is being on time. There is a joke even among Togolese about “Togo Time.” They are never on time. Really never. It is my ‘achilles heal’ as they say. Drives me crazy. One day, early on when we were planning this third event we were all to meet at the Bibilotheque (Library) at a designated time. I was the only one who showed up. Wasn’t the first time, by far. I called two people on the committee whose cell phone number I have. They showed up within about fifteen minutes. I was just in a bad mood that day, and I didn’t feel like letting it pass. The others, and there are about eight all together never showed up after waiting an hour. The two that did show up tried to go ahead with the meeting. I threw my hands up in the air and refused, and left. Wellllll I guess word got around that I had thrown a little fit. Another meeting was scheduled, and lo and behold I kind of lost track of time. I was fifteen minutes late. All eight of them were there waiting for me with grins a mile wide. Dam. My bad.
The day before the scheduled event with Rose we went through our check list, rehearsed our sketches and felt ready. We all agreed to meet at 8:30 A.M. the next day at the Chiefs Compound. Three times I said, "8:30 right?"
|Fully engaged audience|
As a side note I especially appreciated the fact that there were so many children present. Probably twenty or thirty wandered in and sat on the floor around the perimeter of the room. These were young children, many of them girls. I couldn’t help but think that they would really never forget this. This woman (Rose) would remain in the recesses of their mind. It would without a doubt broaden their view of women and the world they live in, in a subtle but enduring way. Even if they were too young to understand the content, for them to see and hear this strong and articulate Togolese woman from their part of the country be front and center, commanding the attention of villagers, Americans and Togolese Notables alike would have an impact.
It was a great day. It was a great accomplishment by the M.A.P. Committee. I think it was and will remain one of the most memorable days of my time here.
The fourth M.A.P event is in the works. The topic will be specifically 'Girls Empowerment and Education; why it’s important and what we can do to encourage and inspire girls to stay in school.' I found another woman to be guest speaker. She is a director for an NGO in this area. I saw her speak in Deve a while back. She was dynamic like Rose, and held her audience in the palm of her hands. I tracked her down through contacts. She has nothing to do with the Peace Corps or M.A.P. She was a little confused and also reticent about why I wanted her. I explained the program, mission and topic for the next event. I told her I wanted her to speak because she is an excellent role model for girls here. Once she understood, she said, “I will be there, I would like to help young girls in Togo.”
To be continued.