‘Trokosi’ survivor Brigitte Sossou Perenyi on her documentary ‘My Stolen Childhood’

You know how you meet someone and you can immediately tell your life would never be the same again? Yep! That’s how I felt when I chanced upon this...

You know how you meet someone and you can immediately tell your life would never be the same again? Yep! That’s how I felt when I chanced upon this particular page on Instagram.

I mentioned in a previous blog post my fear of the growing selfishness of our generation. Most of us are so carried away by the flashy lifestyles we see on social media that we never think of what we can do for this generation and the next. However, every now and then I come across amazing individuals and my hope in this generation is restored. There is hope!

The first time I heard about TROKOSI, which according to sources means SLAVE OF THE GODS OR WIVES OF THE DIETY, was a couple of years ago on a TV show. My understanding back then of this practice of families offering their young virgin girls to the gods as atonement for offenses committed by a relative, was that it’s a thing of the past. Boy, was I wrong!

There are so many things happening around us, which we as a generation are oblivious to. I don’t really blame us because I think as a nation we “tribalize” almost everything so much that, “if it doesn’t affect my tribe or if it has nothing to do with my tribe, you can’t blame me for not knowing about it”. But the truth really is, even when it affects our tribes we are sometimes still very ignorant about some things. The thing is, we live in a social media world where if it’s not reported on social media it basically doesn’t exist or isn’t happening. What a time to be alive! (SMH)

Would you believe me if I told you I know an amazing young lady, younger than myself who was once one of these young girls?

They say our experiences in life shape us into the people we become. It is often very easy for people who have had unpleasant experiences to carry a bit of anger and bitterness along with them through life. It takes an immeasurable amount of strength and grace to go through unpleasant situations and come out a CHAMPION. That is what this young lady is.

2018-05-10-PHOTO-00000566

When I first came across a post on her Instagram page that mentioned something about trokosi, it stirred up an interest in me. I then looked her up on the internet (thank God for Google) and told myself: “I need to meet this girl”. After exchanging a few messages we met for the first time and I can honestly tell you, I wasn’t ready for the journey- at all.

Brigitte always has a smile on her face and she is so graceful. The question I had to ask her was: “how are you not angry?” I mean, Come on!!!! She has every right to be angry because society failed her, our tradition failed her. How are you at 7 years the atonement for the “sins” of a relative?

But it was her answer to that question that made it clear to me she was stuck with me forever (lol). She said with a smile: “Oh, I have been angry but God took it all away”. Wow!!! What I love most about her is how she looks back at her journey to where she is now and can still praise God because she knows it always works together for good with Him.

In one of our meetings, as she recounted her memory of life in the shrine she said to me: “What if Christiane Amanpour of CNN, formerly CBS had delayed just a little bit in reporting on the issue? This would have been a whole new conversation”. My eyes welled up with tears and I had goose pumps all over because really, what if Christiane delayed? I couldn’t even bring myself to think of the outcome.

Thank God the documentary led to Brigitte’s release!

I have always asked myself what more I can do with my love for writing and I believe my answer somehow has Brigitte in it. Getting to know her has been a learning period for me. She is not about fame or popularity. Talks with her remind me daily of how we often take some blessings we enjoy for granted. I love this amazing young woman because in a lot of ways I see we have similar goals and ambitions in life. One of these goals is to start conversations on issues that affect particularly the rights of women. Most of these issues are not addressed with the urgency they require because sometimes we don’t even know they exist.

There are times when we are familiar with some of these issues but the people going through them or let me say dealing with them don’t even know these are issues. How do we address an issue when we don’t even know they are issues to begin with? For example, many women who have been sexually abused have no idea what happened to them was abuse. This is because our society sometimes creates the notion that a woman may have led a man to do that to her therefore the abuse is not a crime.

Anyway, let me leave the issue of sexual abuse for another day. Other times we are very aware of these issues and know they are actually issues but we often don’t know what we can do to help or how we can even initiate change. I say, how about we talk about them; let us start a conversation until we finally have an audience. And what better topic to initiate a conversation on than TROKOSI.

Some of us can empathize with her and tell her story but no one can lead the conversation like she can. The truth is, whether we like to admit it or not, trokosi is still happening. Many young girls will never know what life could have offered them because someone decided their fate for them; that all they get to be in life are “ WIVES OF THE GODS. Brigitte believes that no young girl should be deprived of her life.

 

This is her story, her journey and her way of breaking through into a life of freedom and reconciliation of her past with her present to embrace her future. To take all of her experiences and lead a conversation in hopes that some other young girls will also get the freedom she is blessed to now have.  Brigitte’s passion is to share her story to inspire and encourage others. Her hope is to start a dialogue that helps others recognize the potential of all girls trapped in harmful practices around the world.

Like Brigitte, creating conducive environments for girls to realize their potentials is important for the growth and holistic development of a child. It is a basic right of every child and no one should deprive them of that. I have always believed that the adults around us have the responsibility of protecting us whether we are related by blood or not.

It is therefore unacceptable for children to atone for the sins of the ones who are to keep us safe. #Trokosi must be a thing of the past! Join the conversation on #Trokosi!

This amazing young woman hates to think of herself as a survivor but you, Miss Brigitte Sossou Perenyi, are a SURVIVOR!

2018-05-14-PHOTO-00000625

Last year, Brigitte partnered with Pearl Worksand On Our Radar, both UK-based production companies to work on a documentary titled, “My Stolen Childhood”. This documentary is based on her personal journey into discovering and understanding the trokosi system – a system that took her away from her family and nearly destroyed her life. BBC World has commissioned the documentary and it would be out on BBC Our World and Africa Eye. The transmission times are as follows:

–      MONDAY 14THMAY: YOUTUBE LAUNCH – AFRICA EYE, BBC WORLD SERVICE, BBC WORLD TV

–      MONDAY 14THMAY NTA NIGERIA (11PM GMT). TVC NIGERIA (5PM & 11PM GMT), ABS ABNAMBRA NIGERIA (7PM GMT), SLBC SIERRA LEONE (4PM GMT), KTN KENYA (7:05PM), KTN KENYA SWAHILI (4:30PM), NBS UGANDA (7PM), LNTV LIBERIA (11AM & 6PM), RTG GUINEA (4:30PM), ANFANI TV NIGER (12:30PM)

–      TUESDAY 15THMAY: BBC ONLINE

–      TUESDAY 15THMAY: TV3 GHANA (9PM GMT)

–      FRIDAY 18THMAY: RTN GABON (8PM GMT)

–       18TH, 19TH& 20THMAY: BBC WORLD NEWS CHANNEL

–      19TH& 20THMAY: U.K. TRANSMISSION, OUR WORLD ON BBC NEWS CHANNEL

–      SUNDAY 20THMAY: ONE AFRICA TV NAMIBIA (6PM), LIBERTY NIGERIA (4PM)

By: Nana Serwaa Adu-Boateng

RELATED