Y Care International has worked alongside the National Council of YMCA’s in Togo since 1989. There are two current projects that both support the next generation of young business owners.
About the project
The first project addresses socio-economic causes that can lead to young people offending, as well as ensuring that those working in criminal justice respect the need and rights of young people in detention.
The second project focuses on four key areas – business training; vocational and skills training; disaster risk reduction; and ensuring that governments recognise and support young people in development processes.
The country’s history
Poverty has been reduced in Togo over the past decade but it still continues to trouble the country. Ranking 165 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index, over half the population are living in extreme poverty. 89% of people are in vulnerable employment and the situation among young people is severe. Approximately 20% of young people in Togo are not in education, employment or training (NEET). The high proportion of young NEETs is an indicator of the wasted potential of young people in Togo.
The lack of economic opportunities and growth of informal jobs as a means of getting by has meant that young people in Togo have become excluded from community life and decision-making. The problem is particularly severe in slum communities. Many end up on the wrong side of the law, often ending up serving lengthy prison sentences for minor crimes.
Togo’s criminal justice system has been the subject of recent international criticism with prisons denounced as overcrowded and inhumane. Young people who have committed non-violent petty offences are routinely jailed for between 6-12 months without trial. Rehabilitation is neither funded nor promoted, meaning that those leaving prison receive very limited support and often end up committing further offences.
How are we helping?
Funded by Comic relief, the first Togolese based project supports young people in conflict with the law. To overcome limited livelihood opportunities, many young people resort to petty crimes, leading them to detention. In Togo, up to 70% of detainees are in pre-trial detention – one of the highest rates worldwide.
Human rights abuses are common from initial arrest, to prolonged detention in inhumane conditions. Y Care International is working with Togo YMCA and ten human rights-focused Togolese organisations to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of young people in conflict with the law. The project focuses on prisons in four regions of Togo, including Lomé, the capital, and the more remote regions of Atakpamé, Kara and Sokodé.
The second project aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to enable the ambition of Togo’s young people. In partnership with Togo YMCA, Slum Dwellers International and People’s Dialogue, the project focuses on three slum communities (Katanga, Gbetsogbe and Tokoin-Elavagnon) in Togo’s capital city, Lome.
Young people are trained in vocational skills, life skills, business skills and advocacy skills. By engaging proactively with disenfranchised young people, we can create employment and business opportunities that will enable them to escape poverty, improve the quality of life for them and their families, and avoid coming into contact with the law. We are also helping with access to savings groups and providing start-up kits so that young people can manage finances.
What do we hope to achieve?
The project that aims to inspire the next generation in Togo will:
Worked with 536 “at risk” young people, 10,885 detainees and 354 civil society organisations, police, prison and legal representatives
135 young people have completed vocational training and received business start-up kits
37 former detainees have benefited from our ‘back to school programme’ which reintegrates young people into education
Inspiring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs project will:
150 young people will take part in the entrepreneurship program
Set up savings groups of 610 young people so that they are protected from future disasters as a community