How Deki supports women’s rights in rural Togo

“More and more people now understand that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security” – United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro 


Women’s rights are the rights to live free from violence and discrimination, to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to be educated, to own property, to vote and to earn an equal wage. However, across the world women and girls face violence, discrimination and injustice every day of their lives on the basis of sex and gender.

Women also face higher levels of poverty, they are amongst the poorest of the poor, and gender inequality underpins the issues surrounding them, such as lack of access to education and basic healthcare, gender-based violence and low pay.


Women and girls disproportionately bear the responsibility of care for family members, of fuel and water collection, care of livestock and subsistence agriculture. This unpaid work takes away a woman’s choice of other, more productive, income earning opportunities, leaving her financially dependent on her husband. Often women will sacrifice their own nutrition so that their husbands and children can eat, or she might sacrifice the education of her daughters in times of hardship, to help take care of siblings or to take on waged work.

Women are essential to the household economy and to the welfare of their families, and yet having missed the opportunity that having an education allows, many women will be trapped in a cycle of poverty which impedes their access to the formal financial services, such as affordable credit, or formal employment. This forces them into the more precarious, informal labour market with low wages, no sick pay, poor working conditions, risk of theft and from gender-based violence and sexual discrimination.

“Discrimination and other forms of violence must end so that women can evolve, flourish and contribute to the development of the country” – Madame Claire Quenem, WiLDAF

With lower education levels and fewer economic opportunities available to them, women do not have the same economic or legal rights as men. They are unable to vote and have little to no opportunity of owning their own land or inheriting property, in some cases, women still need permission from their husbands to take on paid labour of any kind.

Without her own income, a woman has no bargaining power in her own home, she has no say in how household income is spent, and she is more at risk from domestic violence. She has very little say over decisions about her own body or reproduction, and she faces inadequate healthcare during pregnancy putting her at risk of complications or death during childbirth, maternal mortality is still unacceptably high.

The fear of discrimination and/or violence stops women from speaking up about the decisions affecting their lives.

 “if she has no money, she cannot speak about her rights, because the man is controlling everything, even her body, even her stomach, even her mind, she cannot speak for her rights” – Madame Claire Quenem, WiLDAF

Often women, particularly in rural areas, are unaware of their human rights, and the obstacles to their empowerment are deeply rooted in cultural expectations of women’s roles, which are often reinforced by societal barriers in law and policies. These existing stereotypes and policies, which are favourable towards men, need to be challenged. We believe that through education, access to affordable financial services, access to healthcare and through educating men, we can move closer to overcoming gender inequalities which is essential to achieving a sustainable livelihood.

 “The patriarchy is very strong, women have not so much power as men, but this needs to be changed and this is the reason why men need to hear about women’s human rights, so that they know they are completing each other, they are not enemies, there is no opposition between the man and the women.” – Madame Claire Quenem, WiLDAF

5 Things Deki is doing to address women’s rights

  • Raising women’s voices to develop leadership skills
  • Supporting women’s access to training and business development
  • Creating a platform to access financial services and support
  • Access to information on sexual and reproductive health and women’s rights
  • Opportunity to access affordable healthcare (MUSA non-profit health insurance mutual)

Deki is committed to addressing gender inequality and has been raising awareness of issues affecting women since our first micro loan in 2009.

We created the Women’s Empowerment Collectives to make safe spaces for women to come together to develop skills such as leadership and business creation, but importantly for them, to learn about women’s rights.

When a woman becomes a Deki entrepreneur, she may already have her own small business, selling fish or vegetables for example, but the lack of financial resources previously available to her, has made it hard to invest in and strengthen her businesses.

When she joins a women’s empowerment collective, not only will she be able to access affordable credit, but she will also have training in managing finances, both in the home and in her business, including the difference between working capital and profit, knowledge which will help her to grow her business.

She will also become part of a group of like-minded, strong women who offer each other support and an understanding of the problems they share. The women in the collective will take on leadership roles and responsibilities within the group, such as President and Treasurer which will help them to build their decision making and leadership skills.

This programme is designed to create a supportive and enabling environment for women to increase their skills, resources and agency, to grow their confidence as well as their incomes.

Alongside the business training workshops, such as inventory and risk management, basic bookkeeping, and customer service, the Women’s Empowerment Collectives also have the opportunity to attend a series of 17 workshops on sexual education, gender rights and empowerment. Our partner in Togo, IADES, works with the non-profit Pan-African women’s rights organisation Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) to create and deliver these workshops.

The modules include workshops on reproductive health, family planning, citizenship, human rights, fight against violence, discrimination and its harmful effects and interpersonal relationships.

“It is important for women to know about their human rights because in our communities, patriarchy is very strong and men have the power, and even economic and social and cultural rights, women are pushed behind.” – Madame Claire Quenem, WiLDAF

When women have access to training, resources, financial services and mutual support, they learn their self-worth. They begin to understand their strength and confidence and use the knowledge from their training sessions to run their own businesses and to earn their own money.

This empowerment enables them to be financially independent from their husbands and they become decision makers about their own bodies, within the household and in the community.

By knowing their rights, they will be able to start shaping their own futures for the first time and they can start educating the next generation of girls with the knowledge that they are equal.

“In Africa, and globally, it is clear that when women are able to exercise their rights to access to education, skills, and jobs, there is a surge in prosperity, positive health outcomes, and greater freedom and well-being, not only of women but of the whole society.” – UN Women


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