A View from South Western Ghana
(through the lens of a traditional religion)
Engage Now Africa (ENA) – Ghana
Mr. Afasi Komla is the Director of Projects and Operations at Engage Now Africa (ENA), a community based entity that is tackling modern slavery practices such as trokosi (ritual servitude), trafficking, forced labor and sexual exploitation.
Recently ENA held a dialogue with stakeholders at a shrine called Koti in Tefle- Fodzoku, a community in the South Tongu District of the Volta Region in South Western Ghana, on issues related to modern slavery and how best to address them.
The dialogue formed part of the World Day Against Trafficking in persons (Blue Day) celebrated worldwide on the 30th July, 2020 under the theme; “Stakeholders Act Now to End Human Trafficking Amidst Covid-19 in Ghana”.
Afasi engaged with elders at Koti in order to obtain first hand information and insights into their practices and how best ENA could support and help eradicate from their community, harmful practices such as trokosi, child labor, child trafficking and other modern slavery related issues.
Despite an official ban on harmful age-old practices by the government of Ghana, authorities prefer to intervene by persuasion rather than compulsion; a reason for which we at ENA, are touring various shrines and holding dialogue sessions with the elders on their challenges and how best to find lasting solutions.
Afasi underscored that children and women are the most vulnerable when it comes to modern slavery. This, according to him, is why, for them at ENA, partnering with this category of persons is a major factor in finding redress.
Afasi also revealed that during the course of meeting with elders of the shrine, they had agreed that there should be wider engagement with the entire Tefle community in order to sensitize them on the need to end modern slavery throughout the community as a whole. Subsequently, a stakeholder’s forum was held to educate community members on the need to stop these modern slavery practices. ENA assured the Tefle community of empowering women within the trokosi system in order to enhance the small scale businesses they are engaged in.
Speaking on the importance of support for women affected, Mr. Heitey Yankson, the Case and Programs Manager at ENA had the following to say. “We have realized that victims of trokosi need a lot of support so we will see how best we can lend a helping. Some communities in Ghana, however, are still holding on to questionable practices, and that’s what has forced ENA into embarking on a fact finding mission to ascertain the challenges surrounding such situations in the country”
Mr. Emmanuel Adjei, the traditional faith leader in charge of the Kɔti Shrine disclosed that, “Kɔti” is a deity inherited from his forefathers and was brought from Egypt in 1670 (17th Century). The people of Tefle and its surrounding areas come to the shrine at Koti to worship “Mawuga Osogbolisa”- The God of the universe.
Any child growing up within this belief system is supposed to follow the rules and regulations governing the God of Kɔti.
This is what Mr Adjei had to say about the dynamics involved in this belief system.
“This god does not accept killing, stealing and lies, and the moment you are born into the family, it is a must that you obey such instructions. Should a person, however, behave contrary to these instructions, the consequences thereof are very high for an individual to bear.”
Touching on the practices of the trokosi system, he said, initially, they used to offer human sacrifices to the gods whenever someone did something abominable. That no longer happens.
Hon. Benjamin Amekudzi, The Assembly Member of Tefle Electoral Area said he believes ENA’s engagement with the community has provided a lot of enlightenment because a number of questionable practices are still going on in the society, despite the promulgation of laws by the Government of Ghana in 1998. He commended NGOs, such as ENA, and pledged his support to ENA in order to fight against such practices.
ENA provided a sum of money to 6 women bound to the trokosi system in order to support their economic activities.
One of the recipients, Madam Tordzro Lanyo, thanked ENA for their kind gesture. “I’m very happy for the support. I have been serving this shrine for the past 60 years and nobody has ever helped me like this before. All society would do is look down on people like me and see us as evil people. I have been staying in the shrine for years because of an offence my great, great-grandmother had committed, something I know nothing about, but I’m paying for her crime.
Trokosi is a practice found among some peoples in Ghana, Togo and Benin. The practice typically requires a young virgin girl to be offered to traditional religious priests at a shrine in atonement for crimes committed by a relative. The trokosi system continues to be associated with some practitioners who use it as cover for sexual abuse and forced labor without remuneration.