“An amazing, inspiring story” were the words of CNN’s chief correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, after watching My Stolen Childhood – Investigating Ghana’s Practice of Trokosi. “We are honoured to be able to support such journalism,” said Diana Lungu Paul, from the European Journalism Centre.
My Stolen Childhood is the dramatic account of Brigitte Sossou Perenyi who set out to trace her steps from slavery to rescue in Ghana, with a film which was the third most viewed story on the BBC website and which has been translated into ten global languages.
Thousands of women and girls across West Africa have lost their freedom because of the centuries-old practice of ‘trokosi’. The practice requires families to give a female child to a shrine as a means of appeasing the gods. Some spend the rest of their lives paying for the sins of family members. Brigitte was one of those girls until she was freed from the shrine where she was held, following the intervention of an American art dealer, who had seen a programme about trokosi on the US channel, CBS.
Angela Robson, the director of Pearl Works Productions and the producer of the film, first met Brigitte on an assignment for Marie Claire in West Africa in 2013 where they collaborated on a piece about trokosi. They struck up a deep friendship and resolved to make a film about Brigitte’s life.
“I knew I could work with Angela to share my story with a global audience to inspire and encourage others to share their own stories,” says Brigitte.
After receiving seed funding from Impact Africa and the European Journalism Centre, filming with Brigitte started in August 2017, with the collaboration of directors Zoe Jewell and Paul Myles from On our Radar, a production company that empowers communities to tell their own stories.
My Stolen Childhood follows Brigitte on a journey through Ghana and Togo to find out why her family gave her away – and what the practice of trokosi means.
“I was nervous because I know supporters and believers of the practice do not want the world to know it still exists”, Brigitte says. “I wanted to tell a story that would be educational, thought- provoking and inspiring. I was keen not to be judgmental or name anyone and to make sure we did not offend anyone.”
The film was animated by May Kindred Boothby and edited by Ella Newton with the soundtrack created by Jack Wylie and Will Ward of 19 Sound. It was first shown across Africa on the BBC’s new investigative Africa Eye series, before being distributed internationally on BBC World.
“Collaborating with this team of film-makers is an example of how journalists and survivors can work together in a powerful way to tell a human story,” says Brigitte.
“Now that I have been able to get my story out there on the world’s stage I want to regain my strength, my confidence and my boldness. I want to know what freedom feels like,” Brigitte says. “I was blessed to have a team of amazing people who gave me the guidance and training I needed to tell my story how I wanted it to be told. I want to extend this to others.”