Why Women Count: Ghana - Picking up the Pieces
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Why Women Count: Ghana - Picking up the Pieces
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Thirty-two year old Comfort Adongo is back in school in Bolgatanga, northern Ghana. Comfort was just 14 when a stranger kidnapped and sexually abused her. Abduction and forced marriage of young girls is a growing phenomenon in this part of Ghana. Now back home with her parents, she is determined to finish her schooling and rebuild her life.
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Camera: Thomas Donkor
Sound: Caleb Akpasah
Editor: Seth Akotuah
Executive Producer: Judith Brifo
Produced and Directed by Loretta Vanderpuye

Coordinated by tve.

Learn more about the series Why Women Count.

Series supported by Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Global Opportunities Fund (FCO), UN Population Fund, UNIFEM/UN Women, and Al Jazeera English.


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Segment 1

Why Women Count
Bolgatanga is the capital of the Upper East Region in northern Ghana. Poverty is prevalent in this part of the country, and this makes poor families readily give their young daughters in marriage just to receive the bride price. But a worrying trend is the kidnapping of young girls by their admirers. These girls are later forced to marry their admirers. In the next few minutes we'll follow the story of one woman, Comfort Adongo, who in spite of being forced into marriage while still in Class Five, is determined to make it in life no matter the odds.
Picking up the Pieces
This is Comfort Adongo, a 32 year-old woman from Bolga. She is in the first year of the junior secondary school -- a class for pupils between the ages of 13 and 15 years. Comfort's education was disrupted at the age of 14 when a man she doesn't know kidnapped and sexually abused her.
COMFORT ADONGO [Victim of forced marriage]
When they kidnapped me, I wept and wept for four days.
Later, her kidnapper contacted her family to perform the traditional marriage rites. The family initially rejected the bride price and demanded that Comfort be returned to them. But later they could no longer resist the offer of four cows, valued at 4 million cedis, or USD$400. A report by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice in Ghana, has described forced marriage as the major human rights abuse issue in the North. Forcing girls below the age of eighteen to marry is a criminal offence in Ghana, yet very few cases have been reported, let alone for the perpetrators to be prosecuted. The Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit in Bolga explains.
JEROME KANYOG [Assistant Superintendent, Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit]
Because they see it as normal usually there is a bit of hesitation on the part of the victim in going to the police. That's the main reason why we haven't received cases like these. It's a common practice. Because this year when we went to the Builsa district for the People's Assembly, the people who were there -- the public, their contributions -- one of them just came and stated categorically that the practice of marrying of children as young as eight, ten, and nine is still rampant.
When Comfort's daughter was less than two years old, her husband deserted her for another woman. When life became very tough, Comfort moved back to her parent's home. But when her absentee husband heard that she had found another man, he followed her back to her family home and beat her up when he heard that she had found another lover. Local non-governmental organizations have taken the lead to sensitize the people, especially traditional and opinion leaders as well as women's groups, about the dangers of forced marriage. One such organization is the Anglican Diocesan Development Organization.
COMFORT KANCO-ACKEP [Anglican Diocesan Development Organization]
I think that somebody has to start from somewhere. You can imagine the psychological trauma that lady will go through. Someone who you do not love, and you are just kidnapped. I mean, you are treated as an animal and your human dignity is taken away completely. And I think that it is very bad. I come from this part of the country and I don't agree with it.
The Widows and Orphans Ministry, another NGO led by Madame Betsy Ayagiba is the organization that pays for Comfort's school fees and buys her uniform. She weaves hats for a living.
I want to be a nurse in future. If God helps me, I should be somebody in the future.
[end credits]