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Read Around the World: Togo


Image from this website.

In December our read around the world trip took us to Togo so what have we learnt about this fascinating country?

Here are some fun facts about Togo.

  • Togo and its surrounding regions were known as “the slave coast” between the 16th and the 18th century because Europeans would come to the region in search of slaves.
  • Togo has a rich history of religion. It has 29% Christians, 20% Muslims and 51% indigenous people.
  • Togo has secular celebrations. Some of the celebrations include 1 January – Fete Nationale and 27 April – Independence day. These celebrations open a window for job opportunities and they attract more tourists.
  • Traditional healing methods are widely used in Togo. Each center has an herbalist. Medical treatments usually involve frequent visits to the house of Vodou and the local Fetish priest.
  •  Togolese usually have two to three meals a day and they are very hospitable. Each meal consists a large portion of starch such as maize, cassava, and rice. Proteins served with day meals usually include; goat meat, fish, and beans.
  • The society in Togo was divided according to traditional and non-traditional lines. The kings, Vodou priests, and paramount chiefs are the elite. The educated, business professionals and government officials entail modern elite.
  • Togo means ‘house of sea’ in the Ewe language.
  • Togo had a great railway network during the reign of the German. During the outbreak of First World War in 1914, Togo was drawn into a conflict. It was invaded by the British and French armies during the Togo-land campaign. In 1916, the territory was divided into French and British zones and this was made formal in 1922.
  • Togo became independent on 27 April 1960. In a smooth transition, Togo served its constitutional ties with France. It shed its UN trusteeship and became fully independent with Olympio as the president.
  • Gnassingbe Eyadema was the longest-serving president of Togo. He died in 2005. He served for thirty-eight years, after being the longest dictator to hold occupation in Africa, at the time of his death.
  • The Ewe who migrated from Nigeria in the fourteenth century forms the major ethnic group in Togo.
  • Togo was put on the World stage by the national soccer team which reached the FIFA World Cup in 2006.
  • Slavery was abolished in Togo in the nineteenth century.

For my visit to Togo I chose to read Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja  a young Muslim woman who chose to flee her homeland and seek asylum in the USA.

The early part of the book focuses on family life in Togo. While her father is alive Fauziya has an idyllic childhood she has a supportive family whom she loves, she is allowed to receive an education which is unusual for most girls in her culture, her father is forward thinking and has enough money and power so that he can protect his family from the more archaic cultural practices and most importantly of all she feels happy and safe.

When her father dies suddenly Fauziya realises that her life was an illusion with the head of the household gone the family’s property and Fauziya herself now belong to her Uncle a very traditional man and one who had never liked her mother or the liberal way that Fauziya was raised. Fauziya’s whole life rapidly falls apart and the last straw is when her aunt marries her without consent to a man old enough to be her father who already has 3 wives and who wants to subject her to the cultural practice of Kakia (female genital mutilation) knowing she is not safe in Togo or any of the neighbouring countries Fauziya’s only way to escape is to leave Africa and everything she has known behind.

The second part of the book looks at the treatment Fauziya receives at the hands of the American immigration service and highlights how refugees are treated within the justice system. Fauziya’s case eventually lead to new standards when judging if a woman deserved asylum or not.

Overall this was a harrowing story but one that needs to be read to better understand the treatment of refugees and particularly female refugees and how there are some forms of persecution that are specific to the female population. A tough read but very educational.

Did you join us in visiting Togo? Which book did you choose to read?

Are you reading for our upcoming trip to Taiwan?



One Comment Post a comment
  1. Gail #

    I also read this book and was impressed with the way it made a almost Beckett like: “I can’t go on. I will go on” plot structure dramatic enough to pull me forward. I totally agree with you that it was an educational read both about Togo and about the US immigration system.
    For Taiwan, I am thinking of Green Island.


    December 21, 2019

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