Togo Appoints First Female Prime Minister

On Friday, September 25, Komi Selom Kassou, the Prime Minister of Togo since 2015, resigned and passed the baton to Victoire Tomegah Dogbé, making her the first female Prime Minister in the West African nation’s history. This historic event was celebrated across the country by human rights activists as it represents hope and progress for gender equality and economic growth.

For activist Mimi Dossou Soedédjé, the appointment of Dogbé as Prime Minister is “a strong signal to our young girls and women that they have the right to dream big. Even though the hardest part begins for her, her skills and past experiences speak in her favour. She will succeed. The promotion of women is underway in Togo, and I am very happy.” This is echoed by women’s rights defender, Elsa Bakolé, who says that this represents “hope for us!” and activist Réyhanath Touré Mamadou, who calls the appointment “a realization of what we have always hoped for, of the infinite possibility that we can give to a woman simply because she is a human being.” Mamadou continues, “We sincerely hope that the parity we are talking about, the equality we are talking about, little by little is happening.” For these gender equality advocates and human rights activists, the appointment of Victoire Tomegah Dogbé as Prime Minister will lead to a better representation of women in high government positions.

Togo’s economic growth has been crawling since the country achieved independence from France in 1960. In recent years, this growth has slowed further, and there is hope that Dogbé, with her background and experience, will help the country realize a long-awaited economic boom. Before entering politics in 2008, Dogbé worked as the director of operations at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Since then, however, she has worked as the Chief of Staff to Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbé and as the Minister for Youth and Grassroots Development. In Togo, Dogbé is widely admired for her successful reforms to reduce poverty and youth unemployment. Her commitment to this fight is a hopeful sign for the country, where approximately half of the population lives in poverty.

The appointment of Victoire Tomegah Dogbé to Prime Minister of Togo is an important step toward achieving gender equality and economic empowerment in the small Francophone country. As one defender of women’s rights put it, “when you are a woman, and you say you want to be Prime Minister of Togo, we are used to telling you that it is not a post for women [but now] there is a woman in this post.” This event widens the possibilities for women and girls to be empowered to participate in economic and political life. As well as human rights and equality, the implications of this for economic growth and stability are significant as gender equality has been shown to have positive impacts on the economy.

Victoire Tomegah Dogbé’s experience with the UNDP and government and her commitment to ending youth unemployment and poverty in Togo indicate that her appointment as Prime Minister will bring positive change to the country. Future impacts, however, remain to be seen. The immediate effects of her appointment, collectively celebrated by gender and human rights activists, was the opening of doors for Togolese women and girls, bringing the realization that the opportunities available to them are far greater than previously thought.

Alexandra Konn