We had seen each other, we had exchanged looks, smiles. We had become friends, we had started to exchange messages, to spend time together, then we met, from friends to lovers, we were so happy together, my eyes only shone for him and vice versa.

I was convinced he was the right person. He kept telling me that I was the woman of his life, that I was the woman he had always dreamed he couldn’t hope for better than me. Both of us were motivated by a spirit of sharing, teamwork and support, which led us to create our foundation. We had worked together and everything went as we wanted. But we had to face the obstacles, especially my mother who kept telling me she didn’t like my lover’s head.  I tried to find out why, but she never gave it to me. Was I blinded by love? Or was I naive? I couldn’t say but the only thing I was sure of was that I loved Rodolphe and that in my head it was him, him and him again. So on February 14, 2016, we said yes before God and before men at Lomé City Hall. I was the happiest woman in the world that day.
“Blessed is the woman who can be fully known and give herself completely. “Paul Claudel said.

Some time after our union, I got pregnant with our twins, it was a celebration at home. We lived happily ever after until the day our children were born. A few weeks after I gave birth, things started to change, my husband came home late without giving any reasons. My duty as a good wife led me to ask her questions to better understand this new behavior that I did not know her. He let me know that his company is bankrupt and that he fears he can no longer meet the needs of our family, (which had grown in the meantime since he created his company while managing our foundation). I reassured him that as soon as I regain my strength, I will assist him financially so that he is no longer the only one to bring money home. Three months later, I told him I was ready to work again. He just said “okay.” When I returned to our place of work, I realized that my office was occupied by new people (without my being informed). I go to my husband’s office to get explanations. He told me that he no longer wanted me in the office and that my place was at home with the children. We find ourselves in a conversation that follows:

Me: I was working before we met and I will continue to work.

He: He replied in a dry tone that we will see, if he is the decision-maker of the family or if it was me.

I came home feeling humiliated and hurt with tears in my eyes. To whom do I tell this scandal (yes, I consider it a scandal) to my mother? No she would just tell me I warned you my daughter you wouldn’t listen to me so…..
Three days later, I couldn’t bear spending all day at home changing diapers. So I decided to get a secret job. I managed to find some. I was doing everything I could to get home on time and fulfill my duties as a wife and mother until the day everything changed.

The day everything turned upside down

One afternoon, I come home from work. To my surprise, my husband had returned before me. The way he looked at me, I knew he knew everything. By the time I opened my mouth to explain, he started beating me up. I felt like I was dreaming, because the man I was in love with would never dare lay a hand on me. What happened to my Rodolphe who loved me so much? Is the love he has for me gone? Did he forget that I was the one he always dreamed of? So many unanswered questions. I cried my heart out, and the last thing he told me tonight was to choose between him and my fulfilling life. So much I loved him that I did not want to leave him, and even if I left him I could not return to the family home, worse my current job did not allow me to rent a house and live there with my daughters. I didn’t want my children to suffer from our separation either. That our daughters grow up in a single-parent family. I didn’t want them to lack love. So I spent 7 years of my life suffering all forms of violence from my husband: insults, assaults, wounds, etc..

I was afraid of divorce because from an early age society taught me stereotypes that a housewife has to sacrifice her life for her husband and children. A woman who leaves her home is frowned upon and judged. A woman who tells her personal problems to others is called a traitor because culture requires that dirty laundry be washed in the family and so on.

Many of these women are victims of violence on a daily basis, whether it is the woman in the household, the maid, or the young girl who finds herself with an early and unwanted pregnancy due to lack of information, lack of sexual education, poor knowledge of her rights and duties, or poor education (relegating her to the background).

Many of them remain silent, for reasons mentioned above. According to a national study conducted in 2010 in Togo, 91% of psycho-moral problems, 34% of economic problems, 41% of physical problems, 33% of sexual problems are caused by gender-based violence.

Despite the efforts of the various actors, the phenomenon persists. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants to initiate a project to support the fight against gender-based violence by providing innovative solutions. This is how it takes place on Thursday 28 June exchanges with different actors and partners involved in the fight against gender-based violence in Togo. The officials of the Ministry of Social Action and the Advancement of Women, the Ministry of Posts and the Digital Economy, the Lomé Crisis Centre and civil society actors, more specifically Civic Education and Citizenship (E2C), could be noted. The UNDP Togo office brought us together with Ministry officials for two days to think together to find innovative solutions to the problem of gender-based violence. We were familiar with the use of a guide that allows innovation to be integrated into the initiation, implementation and closure phase of a UNDP project. Our exchanges and work were facilitated by UNDP Benin staff.

Young girls, women, I am not asking you not to marry, nor am I saying to disrespect your husbands. But, I advise you to do an introspection on yourselves. First of all, know what you want, affirm yourself, know your rights, be autonomous, know how to make decisions, know how to make the right decision when things go wrong.  It’s all very well to marry out of love, but let’s face it, there’s not just love in this world or in a relationship. A marriage is living your whole life with one person for years, but we know very well that love is two, three years, at most 5 years. So there has to be something else that motivates you to stay longer with the same man. The vision, the material (maybe, but something to hold you back.) Have the courage to denounce when things go wrong. Don’t be blindly subjected to gender-based violence, denounce it so that we can help you.

For Boys and Men, life at home is not a question of strength but of complementarity. Help us work with you. As Henri-Fréderic Amiel says, “A happy woman creates an atmosphere of harmony around her, which benefits the house, the neighbours, the family, the afflicted. One hundred happy women would save a city, so to speak, by the radiance of kindness that would emanate from their circle, for there are so many wicked only because there are so many bitter people. ”

Anyway, the violence never solved anything.

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