“All my life I have wondered, “what did I do wrong, why didn’t my parents want me?” says Brigitte Sossou-Perenyi. “For years, I felt confusion, isolation and an utter sense of loss.”
‘Katsotso: The Journey’ is a long-form TV and radio documentary project, commissioned by BBC World TV and the BBC World Service, telling the extraordinary life story of Brigitte Sossou-Perenyi. It is due to be broadcast in April/May 2018.
Born in a village in north-east Togo, Brigitte had a secure and happy ilfe in a close-knit family until the age of seven when her uncle took her to a ‘trokosi’ shrine in the Volta region of Ghana.
Trokosi is a practice in West Africa that requires families to give a female child to a shrine as a means of appeasing the gods.
Liberated from the shrine by a non-governmental organisation called International Needs Ghana after appearing in a Christiane Amanpour CBS report, Brigitte spent the remainder of her childhood in the US, not knowing whether her Togolese parents or siblings were alive or dead.
Katsotso will follow Brigitte on a journey from Accra to the Volta Region of Ghana and to Ahassomé, her home village in the north east of Togo as a means of finding out what happened to her as a child, and to gain a deeper understanding of the trokosi practice.
“‘Katsotso’ is an important word for myself and other women and girls who have experienced trokosi and other types of gender-based abuse,” says Brigitte.
“It means ‘breaking through’ in the Ewe language. To me, it symbolises peoples’ ability to rise above circumstances that might otherwise define and confine them.”
“This project, this journey back, will be an opportunity to understand more about this practice, to own my own narrative and empower other women and girls to do the same,” she says.
Katsotso is a joint project between Pearl Works Productions and On Our Radar, with funding from Impact Africa and the European Journalism Centre. The BBC World Service radio documentary commission will be produced by Pennine Productions.
Brigitte’s hope is that in sharing her experiences she can inspire others to open up and share their own stories.
“I hope this project will create a platform for survivors of all types of injustices to use their voices to create change in the world.”