By Fawzi Sani, S H E | Togo Development Director
Despite the great effort of the Togolese government to give equal opportunities to both girls and boys, life in most villages is still difficult for the former, who have always been considered as second class citizens.
In a family, a girl is the one who does most of the household chores. The argument provided is that she is being prepared to become a good wife. She then needs to wake up very early in the morning, sweep the house, wash dishes, fetch water before going to school (if she has the chance to attend school).
When she comes home from school at the 12pm break, she has to cook for the family and wash dishes before going back for the afternoon class. If a family has at least 2 girls, they share the tasks. Boys in most families are not involved in doing houseworks. All they need to do is to learn their lessons, bathe, and go to school. They take their baths with the water the girls fetched.
During weekends, girls will complete all of the previously mentioned tasks and also do laundry for the week. Besides their own clothes, girls are the ones who wash all of the clothes of the family. Mothers will help too if they live with the girls.
Consequently, many girls scarcely have time to learn their lessons or do their homework. Unfortunately, most parents overlook the immense responsibilities of the girl(s), and just expect their girl(s) to perform as well as the boy(s).
When a girl does well at school, she is not encouraged or celebrated. Instead, boys are blamed for being weak or good for nothing, because a girl happens to perform better than they do. If a girl underperforms at school, she may be told that she is taking up space that a boy could use. If she does well, she may be accused of bribing the teacher.
Polygamy is another problem in our societies. A man may be married to as many women as he wants, even if he has difficulty affording his own life. Children in Togo are considered as signs of wealth – a man with many children will be revered. Often times, a man will take many wives so he has more chances of birthing a son. The girls who are born while trying for a male child may not be welcome in the family. Some families believe that all the girls are good for is to get married and leave the house. Girls are given in marriage to a man who is older than they are, who may be the age of their father or even their grandfather. The girls are not given the same chances as boys.
They may not experience what a fatherly love is, simply because the father is more concerned with his younger wives or his male children. The girls may have to live with a stepmother who often desires the good of herself and her children first. If one of the father’s wives doesn’t want to house the girl, she will be kicked out of her house and must find another relative to live with. Girls can be abandoned to themselves. These girls feel very lonely in a world that is apparently against them. They end up falling victims of peer pressure, drugs, and prostitution.
A girl needs guidance, care, and love. When a girl reaches a certain age she has to make some choices in life. Unfortunately, most girls in Togo are not capable of making the right choices when they feel abandoned, when they feel hatred, when they are hungry and angry, when they have nothing decent to wear, when they are mistreated in their own homes, when they see their siblings being cared for in a way that they are not. Girls in Togo are not given the chance to discover themselves, acknowledge their talents, work on their skills, and build their personality.