Among the young, elected officials… Dede Akpedje Messan, pilot of the initiative “In the shoes of a municipal councilor 

November 2022 saw the official launch of the Young Elected Local Officials of Africa (YELO) network. For UCLG Africa, the presence of this network will shed more light on young people as important players in territorial governance. Their presence within local executive bodies often coincides with the sharing of new ideas, a better understanding of people’s needs and a desire for change. 

This article in our newsletter presents local initiatives by young, elected officials: mayors, deputy mayors, municipal and communal councilors…  

Today, we put the spotlight on the commune of Golfe 6 in Togo, where Mrs. Dede Akpedje Messan was elected. Crowned Best Development Actress, the winner of the Women’s Competence Trophy is ranked in Togo’s Top 100 Women of the Year 2023. A member of the Network of Young Elected Local Officials in Africa (YELO), she is one of the faces of young African local leadership.  

Her initiative, entitled “In the shoes of a municipal councilor” (Dans la peau d’une conseillère municipale), addresses a very real issue at the local level. 

“In the shoes of a municipal councilor” 

Gender issues are the focus of many organizations around the world, and now of several states and local authorities.  

A prerequisite for the reduction or even eradication of gender discrimination is the acceptance of equal rights and treatment between men and women by the populations themselves.  

In recent years, Togo, a West African country, has embarked on a policy of making women a genuine driving force behind economic and social development. A special place has been given to women and girls, with improvements to the legal and institutional framework marked by the adoption of a new persons and family code and a new penal code, as well as the country’s adherence to international conventions. 

Women’s civil participation is an integral part of this development policy. As a corollary, the representation of women in decision-making bodies has risen substantially, from 23% in 2019 to 35% in 2021.    

Despite these efforts, according to a recent survey of the country, women are less represented in public, political and economic spheres as well as associations.  Many of them are still unable to overcome the barriers they face in participating in public and political life.  

To enable young women and girls to participate in the public and political life of their communities, the “National Annual Program for Girls in Decision-Making Spheres” has set up the “In the shoes of a municipal councilor” initiative piloted by Ms. Dede Akpedje Messan, a local official from Golfe 6. 

This initiative is designed to mobilize women and girls around leadership issues, by engaging them in the political field through the management of community affairs. The initiative has a number of objectives, including: 

 – Ensuring equal access and full participation of girls and women in power and decision-making structures by creating conditions conducive to change.   

 – Providing a mentoring framework to build the capacities of young girls and women to enable them to participate in decision-making and responsibility,  

– Develop leadership skills among Togolese girls and women. 

The latest local elections in 2019 resulted in 202 women out of 1504 local officials. These women have a duty to form a cohort of leaders in line with SDG5 (Achieve gender equality by empowering women and girls).  

In this context, young women and girls aged between 18 and 35 spend days in the shoes of a local official for an introduction to women’s political leadership. Working alongside Mrs. Dede Akpedje Messan, they learn the basics of the role of municipal councilor, and of political commitment at local level. The young women also learn how to identify current and future opportunities to build political trajectories and become familiar with leadership. Thanks to her profile, the Golfe 6 councilor has everything to inspire young women: active and a “fighter”, she has a degree in international business, and regularly takes part in numerous international meetings to promote the place of gender and youth.  

Planned for 25 girls and women, this project has already seen the participation of 5 champions who are now equipped to have confidence in their abilities and potential. 

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