“Life as a trokosi is not a pleasant experience to recall, but the important thing is that I have my freedom now, from the heinous trokosi system that had held me in slavery for what should have been the best part of my life”, says Enyonam (a name meaning , ‘God is good to me’).
“Even though I am free, telling my story brings me mixed feelings. When I look back on what I went through, with no hope of ever coming out of that system I sometimes feel horrified, angry yet thankful to God. I never knew I would ever come out of the shrine because I was made to understand that it was a taboo for me to visit home to see my parents and siblings; I lost the opportunity to go to school and become a scholar. Worst of all, I did not have the opportunity to choose a man that I love, marry and enjoy a good family life – all these escaped me.
“I could not remember how old I was then, but I can faintly recall that there was a funeral in our house one time. There were constant meetings with my parents and the extended family about issues that we the children were not allowed to hear. One early dawn during the period I overheard heated arguments among the elders of the house and recognized my mother’s voice, protesting to what turned out later to be taking me away to a trokosi shrine to pay for the crime of my grandfather who committed adultery with a trokosi woman. This was alleged to be the cause of deaths and the funeral going on in the house.
“The following day, I was invited by the extended family and told that I had to be taken to a place to prevent myself and parents from dying. I was gripped with fear and started crying, only to be consoled by my mother who was a lone voice among the elders. I could not eat the whole day. In the evening when the family was ready to go with me, I protested. I was eventually taken hold of, blind-folded and taken away from my village, far away to another place to begin a new phase of my life as trokosi.
“The prohibitions, daily tasks and all issues regarding my life-time stay there were spelt out to me. I wished I could drink poison and die. The most horrid experience I went through as a teenage girl was the ordeal of virtual rape by the priest in the shrine. I was only told that he was going to be my husband. I had my first child and had to care for him without any support from anywhere. I cut wood to burn charcoal to feed the baby and myself, sometimes we both went hungry.
“I’m very grateful to International Needs for setting me free from that system, something no one dreamt could ever happen. I was set free with all the other women from my shrine.”
After liberation, Enyonam went through trauma and psycho-social counseling. She lived at the training centre with her children for three years and acquired vocational skills in dressmaking and hair-dressing, including other social skills. She has regained her dignity and self-esteem. She makes dresses for women in the village and fixes their hair for small fees to take care of her children. ‘My aspiration in life, “ she says, “is to earn a decent income to educate my children and own a humble house where I’ll spend the rest of my life with my children around me.”