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Henriette (Narrative 2)

In France, there is a pervasive problem of women and children being subjected to domestic servitude, mostly in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, Chartres, Toulouse, and Nice.

Henriette Siliadin became an enslaved domestic worker after her arrival in France at the age of 14. She was eventually helped by the Comité contre l’esclavage moderne (CCEM) (Committee against Modern Slavery), which works with victims of domestic slavery and forced labour in France.

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Henriette

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that there are approximately 129,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in France. Women and children from African nations being held in domestic servitude, like Henriette, often by relatives, is a recognised problem in France.Henriette, originally from Togo, became an enslaved domestic worker after her arrival in France at the age of 14. She was eventually helped by the Comité contre l’esclavage moderne (CCEM) (Committee against Modern Slavery), which works with victims of domestic slavery and forced labour in France. She was able to face some of her enslavers in court, and see their conviction.

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Patience

The system of trokosi (“wife of the gods”) has existed in the Volta region of rural Ghana for centuries. During the late 1990s, numbers reached to around 6000 trokosi, most native to Ghana. It also exists in Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria. Fetish priests who run shrines insist that only by handing over a virgin daughter—typically aged between eight and 15—can families atone for alleged offences committed by their relatives or ancestors. These offences range from murder to petty theft. Once the girls are handed over, priests turn them into slaves and impregnate them repeatedly. They are beaten when they try to escape, and are denied education, food, and basic health services. Most remain in slavery for between three and ten years, some for their whole lives. If they die, the family must offer another virgin daughter, and if they are ever released, former trokosis are considered unmarriageable. Any children born to trokosi become slaves, and trokosi are passed on to the next priest upon one priest’s death. Until July 2002, Patience was a trokosi, brought from Togo to a shrine in Ghana at the age of ten. She was released by International Needs-Ghana, which has liberated several thousand trokosi from shrines across southeastern Ghana since 1996. The trokosi practice was banned in Ghana in 1998, but enforcement of the ban has been ineffective: officials are hesitant to restrict the practice because they view it as an integral part of their religious beliefs, and fetish priests claim the right to preserve their forefathers’ culture. Togo and Benin have done little to stop the practice, and practitioners in Ghana bring girls from these countries. Several former trokosis now campaign against the practice.