Mercy Senahe’s Story of Victory

MercyMercy Senahe was sent to the shrine to become a trokosi when she was about 8 years old. During the time, she had started her Primary School education but was withdrawn from school when she was in only Stage 2. She was not given any reason for being taken away. She was only informed by her grandmother that she had to accompany her to a festival in another village. Mercy was very excited about this news because she thought she was going to experience their traditional festival.

The next evening, Mercy crossed a river with her parents and some members of the extended family to another village. They had to walk a long distance, spending a night in a village on their way. At dawn, while Mercy was deeply asleep, a voice woke her up. She was taken to another room where she was dressed up in beads, new clothes and golden jewelry, with a small calabash placed on her head. In a large procession with her relatives, she was taken to a place which turned out to be the fetish shrine. No one communicated any reason to her. She was handed over to an old fetish priest of the shrine. He performed series of rituals on her body from that morning till evening, when they all reclined to bed. Before Mercy woke up the following morning, all her relatives including her parents had gone without a word to her.

Mercy realized she was left alone among the stranger in the shrine. She was so much afraid that she started crying, searching for her parents but she was warned that children were not permitted to cry in the shrine. This marked the beginning of her abandoned life. She was denied continuation of her education, medical care and was virtually taken into child labour to perform difficult tasks on the priest’s farm.

At the age of about 12 years, Mercy was sexually defiled by the old priest as part of the rituals. She became pregnant and had her first child at the age of 12 – 13 years (she could not remember her birth date.) She had to take care of her baby all by herself under precarious conditions. She tried to escape to her parents but was sent back. Mercy suffered so much hardship in the shrine like all the other women. She was pregnant with her 4th child when the International Needs team visited the shrine in 1997 to negotiate for the release of all women in the shrine, including Mercy, but was met with hostility. Further visits to the shrine and persistent negotiations finally yielded in the liberation of Mercy with her children and all the other women. They were taken through trauma counseling rehabilitated at the Adidome Vocational Training Centre. Mercy learnt various skills including dressmaking, cooking and bread baking.

Mercy is now employed by International Needs Ghana at Adidome, cooking in a team for other vulnerable women who come to learn vocational skills at the training Centre. She has all her four children living with her, all in school.