A Stolen Childhood and a Reclaimed Story: Brigitte Sossou Perenyi

Recently, I was introduced to an elegant looking woman in a coffee shop in Accra. She was well-spoken, chic, and had a good sense of humor, and a hello turned into a 30-minute conversation. Towards the middle of the convo, she told me about having had the opportunity to make a BBC documentary about her life. I was quite impressed talking to a twenty-something with her own documentary and told her I would check it out.

The woman was Brigitte Sossou Perenyi and her story was “My stolen childhood: understanding the trokosi system”. This fantastic documentary chronicles Brigitte’s and thousands of other West African girls’ unfair fate of being human sacrifices. In some cultures in Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a committed sin is believed to cause sickness and death in the family which can only be stopped if a girl is “sacrificed” and made a slave of a shrine.

This documentary is fantastic as it shows how striving for understanding of wrongs made against you can free you, how returning to the scene of the crime and remembering together can let your courage spread to others. Our heroine travels the region and speaks to everyone from an Uber-driver, a group of elders, academics studying the practice at the University of Ghana, her trokosi friend who also managed to get free, her family, and to all of us who want to listen to her story. I spent another half-an-hour with Brigitte and cherished every moment of it.

Thank you Brigitte for reclaiming and sharing your story with so much courage and truth-telling!

Trokosi, or ritual servitude, was made a crime in 1998, but no one has been prosecuted for a practice that is still ongoing and affecting many lives.

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  1. Having read Brigitte’s story, i am glad this ritual servitude has bn made a crime. I cannot understand why any family member that commits a crime does not get punished for it but instead, gets away with it by destroying another member of the family’s life n in this case Brigitte’s. I do not believe any of this “sickness n death ” nonsense that goes on in Ghana, Togo n Benin. Thr is sickness n death in every family n i do not believe in it at all. It is all made up. People nd to educate themselves in this kind of rituals that isn’t true. Children shld never ever be sacrificed in this way. They need their parents guidance more than ever, instead of abusing them, by taking them away from their parents through no fault of theirs. I can imagine the trauma the children hv to go through not seeing their parents or siblings, wondering what on earth they are doing with other people, not attending school, missing their friends etc. For the traditional priest to sleep with a young virgin girl is an abuse of the child’s human rights. He shld no better instead of taking liberties.
    These traditional priests in these countries know it is a crime to” sacrifice these girls” but they are still doing it because they enjoy sleeping with these young girls. This is serious child abuse n needs to stop. The family member, the Uncle, the traditional priests etc shld all be prosecuted for damaging the lives of children like Brigitte’s.