From where I stand: Desirée Akpa Akpro Loyou
I was abused twice. The first time was when I was in primary school and was 8 or 9 years old. A teaching assistant tried to touch me. After that, I withdrew within myself and distrusted all men and boys. It is obvious that violence can prevent girls from pursuing their studies, especially if such acts are committed by their guardian or teacher. This will have an impact on their academic results.
I was 21 years old when I became a Girl Scout. I was very shy and withdrawn, but as Guides we can do things we would not manage to do on our own. Now, I am a social worker for the Government and Deputy Commissioner General for training for the Girl Scouts, under the Ministry of Youth. I conduct awareness-raising campaigns in schools and organize trainings for key people, both male and female, in the fight against gender-based violence. Education plays a vital role.
When I speak in front of 400 students and am standing on the podium, and when I talk about violence in schools and the risk factors, I share the experiences that I survived. When you raise awareness in schools, this results in reduced violence. When we talk with students, several cases of abuse emerge, especially among girls. Such acts are often committed by teachers responsible for their education. The story of my life captures their attention. I want to reach out to girls and tell them to speak up and not be silent.”
Desirée Akpa Akpro Loyou, 37, is a social worker and Deputy Commissioner General responsible for training, for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) in Côte d'Ivoire. In January, she participated in a regional training event in Togo organized by UN Women and WAGGGS and supported by Zonta International to teach Girl Guides how to deliver the non-formal education curriculum, Voices against violence. The efforts are connected with the new Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 4 seeks to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, including through education for human rights and gender equality; while SDG 5 has among its targets that of eliminating from public and private life all forms of violence against women and girls.
Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.