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Gender - Women

Togo's working women want more influence

afrol News, 26 January - Providing the majority of manpower in the country, Togo's women still have a long run to reach an equal influence over Togolese society and business. Women groups have now united in Lomé to work out a strategy on how to increase their power in public and the government has stated its interest in the result.

Togo's Consultative Committee of Women of Togo has been meeting in Lomé, the Togolese capital, since Tuesday morning. The aim of the meeting is to define a strategy document on the integration and promotion of women in the public life of the country.

This is to include ways of increasing female representation in all levels of government, the police, businesses and other institutions. Throughout the ongoing seminar, the women groups are discussing the obstacles to promotion of women decision-makers and how to overcome these obstacles.

The Togolese government today stated its interest in the outcome of the meeting, citing its "legal dedication to gender equality" and having "created a ministry in charge of the promotion of women." A new strategy paper by Togo's women groups would "not be without interest" to the government, it was said.

Togolese authorities admit there is a large difference in women's contribution to society and their influence. "Do Togolese women work more than men?" a government statement asks. "Undoubtedly, but it should not be pronounced too loud, as their husbands are never far away," it answers, with a morbid kind of irony.

The same government statement informs that the labour of Togolese women is especially important in the sectors of trade, agriculture and services. These again are the main economic sectors in Togo, proving the point of women's importance to the national economy.

According to the Lomé government, it is only natural that Togo's women will not be satisfied with doing the majority of works but having little influence on decision-making. "Now, the objective is to get directly involved in public life to influence government decisions, not only regarding women issues, but also to advise on the best way to develop the country."

The organisation of women's groups has been strengthened of the last few years in Togo. Several feminist non-governmental organisations are now working for the promotion of gender equality in the country.

Despite of this, women are still mostly excluded from decision-making environments. For example only 7.4 percent of seats in parliament - which was elected in 2003 - are held by women. In other institutions, the situation is similar.

Also the high representation of women in the country's main economic activities has not helped increasing female influence. A husband still has legal powers restrict his wife's freedom to work or control her earnings, despite the constitution's declaration of gender equality. Equally, working women are left little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork.

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