Nadege Afoutou was born in 1990 in Kpalime, a beautiful town in southern Togo. She spent her early childhood in different rural areas in Togo because her mother was a midwife and civil servant and needed to move frequently for her work. At the age of six, Nadege and her family settled in Lomé, the capital of Togo. Nadege performed exceptionally well in school, but was quite timid as a child. Her parents encouraged Nadege’s intellectual development and passion for reading. They also encouraged her to give voice to her thoughts, telling her that she was capable of doing great things provided that she had the self-confidence and the willingness to work hard.
The nurturing and support provided by her parents helped Ms. Afoutou to gain self-esteem and the resolve to follow her dreams. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 2010 and her Maitrise Degree in 2011, each in Literature and Arts at the University of Lomé. In 2010, Nadege won an essay contest organized by the US Embassy in Lomé for the 50th anniversary celebration of Togo’s independence. Her topic was the role of political actors and citizens in the building of a democratic society and fostering peace. In 2011, she co-founded a nonprofit organization Education Citizenship and Change to promote civic education and empower youths with leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Her hope was that by assisting youths to obtain financial independence they would be more likely to stay away from delinquency and violence.
Ms. Afoutou is an active user of social media and regularly blogs on political and social issues. Nadege Afoutou also has a strong interest in international affairs and human rights. She holds a Peace Online certificate in Human Rights and Gender Awareness from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana and has worked in the U.N peacekeeping missions’ field for four years. She is now a good communicator, excellent team builder, and motivational leader.
Since 2013, she has been coordinating the Female Leadership Techcamp to promote girls’ and women’s leadership in technology. The camp is the first of its kind in French-speaking countries in Africa. Ms. Afoutou helped host a FemaleTechCamp in Lome from March 25 to 28, 2015. The event helped participants understand how to use information computer technology (ICT) for civic education, solving social problems, and to boost social businesses. The successful event was reported on by local and international media. Ms. Afoutou was also a participant in the first TechCamp West Africa which was held in Accra in February 2015.
In 2015, Ms. Afoutou received two international fellowships in recognition of her service to young people in Togo and encouraging their political participation. The first was acceptance into in the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The program took place from February to March and included travel to three US cities (Washington, Atlanta, and San Diego) to strengthen her skills in digital activism, civic organizing, and political participation.
Upon her return from the USA, Nadege Afoutou initiated activities with youths to share the knowledge she gained abroad. One specific activity she initiated was raising awareness on the importance of organizing local elections in Togo. Local elections have not been held since the 1980s and this had led to many problems including poor waste management in urban areas.
Ms. Afoutou had only been back in Togo for a few months when her second international award, a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship, through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), led to her return to the USA. This time she was hosted for six weeks by the University of Delaware, where she completed a Civic Leadership program. The Mandela Washington Fellows program is highly competitive. It has averaged a 1.25 percent acceptance rate since its inception in 2014. Of the 1000 Fellows selected from across Africa to date only 12 have been from Togo. Ms. Afoutou stands out among the elite group of Mandela Washington Fellows because she is among the 20 percent that were selected to remain in the USA for a second six-week program in the form of a Professional Development Experience. Ms. Afoutou has used her additional time to intern in the Marketing Department of Pikes Peak United Way in Colorado Springs. She returned to Togo in late September 2015.
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Ms. Nadege Afoutou been so successful in her undertakings?
Some key characteristics come to mind:
Ms. Afoutou identified her DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life at a young age; by the age of 15 she was actively WORKING HARD to make a positive difference in the lives of others. She already has over 10 years of experience in community building and empowerment, especially in leadership and civic engagement. She has volunteered for many organizations including the American Corner of the University of Lome, the Youth House, and Friends of the Earth Togo, where she served as a community manager and language assistant.
Each new experience serves as an opportunity for Ms. Afoutou to DEVELOP SKILLS that she then uses to advocate for policies favorable to youths and the common good of the Togolese people. Ms. Nadege Afoutou PLANS AHEAD. Her next goal is to create a Centre for Civic Leadership and Citizens’ Participation in Lomé.