Category Archives: Africa

Bonded To Priests As Domestic And Sexual Servants – Trokosi

TrokosiThe following message came to me in an email a few days ago. “I am currently working on a film that deals with the little known system of bondage in Ghana, called Trokosi,” Christene Browne wrote to me. “Trokosi is a religious practice whereby young virgin girls are made slaves to shrines for offenses committed by a member of their family. To appease local gods, the girls are bonded to the priest of the shrine for life and become their domestic and sexual servants.”

Christene, via Syncopated Productions, is still seeking funds to finish Sena – A Film About Slavery. The film is based on the stories she was told during visits to Ghana. The film takes its name from the main character, Sena, whose dreams of being a nun are shattered when she is secretly sent off to a shrine to atone for a crime that she did not submit. The film tells the story of how she endures through numerous atrocities and inhumanities.

A short interview. I asked Christene if I could ask her a few questions to learn more about how she came to make the film, and what she hoped it would accomplish.

How did you first become aware of child slavery?

I first became aware  of Trokosi practice ( a form of child slavery) back in 2000 while I was visiting Ghana for the first time. There was a news report about the practice on a local TV station one night.

What surprised you most about your experience with child slavery?

What surprised me most about the practice was that it could  still exist in the present day  even in the face of some serious opposition/ legislation (It existed for centuries but had been criminalized in 1998.) The fact that the practice was/is sanctioned by many of the traditional religious practitioners was also very surprising. According to them the young girls were/are being sent to the shrines for educational purposes.

How did you first come into contact with a former Trokosi? 

After my first trip to Ghana – I returned home and applied for some research funding with CIDA ( Canadian International Development Agency). Before returning to Ghana I contacted a number of organizations and individuals who were doing work with the Trokosi. ( I had friend in Ghana helping)   My main contact was a man by the name of Elvis Adikah – who was in the midst of doing research on the practise. He was the one who put me in direct direct contact with former Trokosi – he also acted as my interpreter.

We travelled for about five weeks in the Volta region of Ghana to remote hard to reach villages- meeting young and older former Trokosi – and collecting testimonies. During this trip I was also able to visit some active shrines, meet with some of the priests of the shrines, some government officials, a number of NGO groups and some leaders in the African traditional religion movement. In one of the  active shrines, I met an older woman whose job was to oversee the Trokosi – she had been in the shrine for over 60 years. (She is featured in the research interview clip below)

My meetings with the former Trokosi took place in their homes and at so called rehabilitation centers.  The majority of the younger former Trokosi were at these rehabilitation centers where they were learning skills, like sewing, to help them better reintegrate into society.

There is a great stigma associated with former Trokosi – many people believe that they bring misfortunes – so reintegration is very difficult.

Why did you decide to make your film?

Ever since I  had the opportunity to meet and interview a number of former Trokosi , I felt compelled to tell their story. The stories that I heard were devastating and  touched me greatly.

What do you hope people will do as a result of watching the film?

I hope the film will spark a new debate about the practice and  bring the silent suffering of the Trokosi to the forefront. Giving a voice to the voiceless is something that I have done in many of my past projects. Ultimately I hope to inspire people to take decisive actions towards stopping this archaic system of bondage.

If you’ve read this far, I hope that you will help me in spreading the word about Christene’s film, Sena – A Story Of Slavery, or prehaps, even contributing to the completion of the film.

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Stop Joseph Kony – But Don’t Stop Thinking

Yesterday I posted “Stop Joseph Kony” in haste. Several friends asked me to say something. But I didn’t give the post the level of attention and due dilligence I should have. Today I’m making an attempt to correct my mistake.

“If the world knows who Joseph Kony is, it will unite to stop him.” It’s a compelling statementThis is part of the #KONY2012 campaign that has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook.  There’s a lot of truth to that statement. It’s amazing to me that it is taking the world community so long to take action against this man. But the story in Uganda is bigger than this Joseph Kony. And I’m certainly NOT the right person to help anyone fully understand the historical and political issues that make the conflict larger than the KONY 2012 video explains. I’m not Ugandan.

I’ve had links to Invisible Children on this blog for as long as I’ve been writing here. I’ve written about the plight child soldiers before. The first time five years ago in 2007. As always, it’s important to understand what our support is fueling, and how, and what our awareness accomplishes. I’m writing here again because I’m concerned with the lack of understanding about what might really be happening in Uganda right now, and where the money being raised by Invisible Children is being spent. Viral can be good, but not if it causes us to act without doing research.

Look at all sides of an issue. Here is a critical look at Invisible Children and the KONY 12 campaign. Doing nothing is not an option, certainly. But we need to make choices with as much information as we can get our hands on.

Here is more perspective, some from people on the ground in Uganda. I’ll be adding more links to this post as I find them. Read these, read what is available at Invisible Children, then decide for yourself how you will act.

Stop Joseph Kony

“If the world knows who Joseph Kony is, it will unite to stop him.” It’s amazing it is taking the world so long to take action against this man.

Help raise awareness of the evil that is Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, a force whose soldiers are predominantly children stolen from their families.”When abducting the children, Kony and his army often killed their family and neighbors thus leaving the children with little choice but to fight for him.” Watch the video.

Then, decide where and how you’ll  pledge your support.

As always, it’s important to understand what your support is fueling, and how. Here is a critical look at Invisible Children and the KONY 12 campaign. Doing nothing is not an option. Make your choices with as much information as you can get your hands on.

Young Girls Held As Soldiers In DR Congo

Children are still being recruited and abused in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“Used as combatants, labour and sex slaves, victims of months-long violence and rape, girls are all too rarely freed by the armed forces and groups,” UNICEF said in a news release in Goma, eastern DRC, marking the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, noting that only 20 per cent of freed children under the agency’s care were girls. via YubaNet.com.

Please read about the use of children as soldiers and spread the word about this horrific abuse.

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Child Slavery, Coltan and The Congo

An estimated 2-million child-slaves work from sunrise to sunset to dig coltan by hand from the soil – and it is traded on the black market for US $400 a pound. – digitaljournal.com

With my feed reader overflowing with thousands of articles to sift through about modern slavery, I’ve recently turned to Twitter to find the stories that are moving others to speak out. The quote above came from a post cited by Chris Hogg in his twitter stream.

Slavery today, specifically child slavery, is being driven by the same motivation as it always has – profits. Coltan (Columbite-tantalite), it turns out, is ONLY in existence in the Eastern Congo and a small region of Tanzania. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. It is used in the production of capacitors.

Every day hundreds of thousands of Congolese child-slaves are forced to crawl into underground mines on their hands and knees to dig for the essential raw material make electronic gadgets like cell phones, iPods, laptop computers, play stations, wireless systems, DVD players, blackberries and pagers possible.

Clearly, I applaud the Dutch labour MP for his desire to see the end of child slave labor in the Congo. And there are alternatives to using the Coltan produced in Central Africa. Australia is also a major producer of Coltan and many electronics companies are now rejecting Coltan, opting to only purchase from legitimate sources. Unfortunately, I think real change will only come from finding an affordable alternative to Coltan. Thankfully, there is a movement to find alternatives to Coltan in capacitor production, including Niobium, multilayer ceramic capacitors and aluminum-polymer capacitors. I have no idea how long these methods will take to make their way into production or what their viability is.

In the meantime, children in the Congo are being abused daily to feed our addiction to ever cheaper technology. The Dutch petition was sent to all of the major multinational firms that produce cell phones. Let’s hope they act.

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Child Slavery Alive And Well In The UK

An undercover reporter was offered several children for sale by their parents in Nigeria: two boys aged three and five for £5,000, or £2,500 for one, and a 10-month-old baby for £2,000. Teenage girls – including some still pregnant – were willing to sell their babies for less than £1,000.

I don’t care how many times I read these stories, the shock of it never goes away. This is pure evil.  Some of the Nigerian traffickers are making upwards of  £6,000 per week selling children. The fact that there are traffickers selling up to 500 children per year means there is a willing market on the other end. It sickens me.

Watch this video about the new slave trade.

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Nothing Says I Love You Like…

“Nothing says “I love you” like a superficial and overvalued rock clawed from the guts of the Earth by African slave labour.” From FronstfireSeeds.com.

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Startling Connections: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier

I often think of Africa as “so” foreign. It seems like a world I could never relate to.

A Long Way GoneI am reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. I expected to be reading from a detached position… reading about a far off place, about people who live in a culture I can’t begin to understand.

I was startled by how familiar Ishmael felt as I read words like, “The only wars I knew of were those that I had read about in books or seen in movies such as Rambo: First Blood, and the one in neighboring Liberia that I had heard about on the BBC News. My imagination at ten years old didn’t have the capacity to grasp what had taken away the happiness of the refugees.”

His words could be my words now. I have no direct understanding of war, of abject poverty, of forced labor, of child slavery, of child soldiers. I read his words and thought, “this boy was like my son.”

I am not finished with the book. I’m reading it differently than I thought I would. It is hitting home because he was a boy who went to school, loved rap music, danced and had dreams of college. He was not so different. And so the stories of horror that are now flooding the pages seem more real, more painful.

Fair Trade Clothing by Global Mamas

A very good friend of mine sent me to this site. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I was intrigued because of its name Global Mamas.

Global Mamas is a nonprofit organization helping small, women-led enterprises in Africa. Proceeds go directly to the women and to nonprofit programs that assist them with business development. On average, the Ghanaian women who create these clothes earn 10 times the minimum wage in Ghana.

What a great idea. The designs are cute too.

Pacifier

The best news is that they are out of stock on everything. Which makes me disappointed and happy all at the same time. That just means we are keeping them busy and more work will be available for the woman of Ghana.

I’m keeping my eyes on this one!

In Denial About Child Slavery

I was researching child slavery in Ghana and ran across this post, about the Oprah Show that was the genesis for StopChildSlavery.com | Click Here

One of the readers of the post had this comment:

I think this story has been exaggerated. I am from Ghana and I grew up there and there is no such thing as child slavery. The children are not forced to work and they are definitely not treated like slaves, unless they end up with a wicked family. turning backs 2This is just the only way these poor people can earn money for their daily lives. Some of these children even go to school and the school fees are paid by the family they are helping. I don’t know the story of these particular seven children, but I know for sure that what I am saying is what mainly happens. Very rarely do you find children “captured in the chains of slavery.” I personally think that is absolute rubbish. If anything, the issue should be child labour because the children’s families are paid every month (most of the time). It is definitely not as though the child has been sold to a whole new family for the rest of their life. This is a very huge exaggeration.
– Posted by: Anyeley

Here was my response:

Anyeley, if it is a very huge exaggeration, then what do you make of the U.S. State Department of Trafficking report issued in June of 2006 that says…

“Ghana is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Children are trafficked within the country as domestic servants, cocoa plantation laborers, street vendors, porters, for work in the fishing industry, and for use in sexual exploitation. IOM estimates that the number of trafficked children working in fishing villages along the Volta Lake is in the thousands. Children are also trafficked to and from Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, and The Gambia as domestic servants, laborers, and in the fishing industry. Children and women are trafficked for sexual exploitation from Ghana to Europe, from Nigeria through Ghana to Europe, and from Burkina Faso through Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire.” Source: http://www.gvnet.com/humantrafficking/Ghana.htm

Anyeley did not come back to respond. But Anyeley represents the reason why this and other blogs like it are necessary. We MUST wake the world up to the truth about the scope of child slavery in our world. We must not close our eyes!

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