|© UNICEF Togo/2008/Asselin|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman meets with Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe in Lome, Togo on 1 September 2008.|
LOME, Togo, 2 September 2008 – Ann M. Veneman, on the first-ever visit by a UNICEF Executive Director to Togo, promoted the importance of education to advance development.
At a meeting with the President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, Veneman announced over $3 million in additional support for education, health and nutrition programmes.
President Gnassingbe expressed his intent to eliminate school fees and implement free primary education. Veneman and the President agreed that Togo’s children are the human capital of the country and that they should be at the heart of national policy and planning.
Veneman visited a vodun convent in Togo and met with the High Priestess and a group of girls who are currently under her religious instruction. Vodun is an ancient religion practiced by some 30 million people in the West African nations of Benin, Togo and Ghana. In many parts of the world, it is also known as ‘voodoo’.
Education critical for girls’ future
As part of the Togolese culture, girls, often as young as four years old, enter into convents for training. During their initiation period, the girls do not normally go to school, and after initiation they rarely continue their education.
However, as a result of a recent initiative with the Togolese Government, local organizations and UNICEF, these girls are going to school.
“Education is critical for children and for their future,” said Veneman. “By working with traditional religious leaders, children and especially girls are being given the opportunity to go to school, some of them for the first time.”
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