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UNICEF Executive Director’s Togo visit focuses on education

TOGO, 2 September 2008 - Ann M. Veneman, on the first ever visit by a UNICEF Executive Director to Togo, promoted the importance of education to advance development.

At a meeting with the President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, Veneman announced over $3 million in additional support for education, health and nutrition programs.

The President expressed his intent to eliminate school fees and implement free primary education.  Veneman and the President agreed that Togo’s children are the human capital of the country and that they should be at the heart of national policy and planning.

Veneman visited a vodun convent in Togo and met with the High Priestess and a group of girls who are currently under her religious instruction.

Vodun, is an ancient religion practiced by some 30 million people in the West African nations of Benin, Togo and Ghana.  In many parts of the world it is also known as ‘voodoo’.

As part of the Togo culture, girls, often as young as four years old, enter into convents for training.  During their initiation period, the girls do not normally go to school and after initiation will rarely continue their education. 

However, as a result of a recent initiative with the Togolese Government, local organizations and UNICEF, these girls are going to school.

“Education is critical for children and for their future,” said Veneman. “By working with traditional religious leaders, children and especially girls are being given the opportunity to go to school, some of them for the first time.”

UNICEF works on the ground in more than 150 developing and transitional countries to help children survive and thrive. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS.

About the UNICEF Executive Director:
Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.
At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled around the world, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.

For further information, please contact:

Christopher de Bono, Chief of Media, UNICEF New York, Tel + 212 303-7984, Email

Essi Fafa Soule, UNICEF Togo, Tel +  (228) 223 15 10, Email


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