Defender Against Modern Slavery and Trafficking
Enslaved in a shrine in her native Ghana as a young child under a custom known as Trokosi, she was forced to work without pay, without food or clothing, and to perform sexual services for the holy man. She was able to escape seventeen years later, after several failed attempts, at the age of twenty-three. Trokosi comes from an Ewe word meaning “slave of the gods,” and is understood as a religious and cultural practice in which young girls, mostly virgins, are sent into lifelong servitude to atone for the alleged crimes of their relatives. In 1997, it was estimated that approximately five thousand young girls and women were being kept in 345 shrines in the southeastern part of Ghana. Through Juliana Dogbadzi’s daring escape and her subsequent efforts to denounce the system, the Trokosi practice was banned in Ghana in 1999; however, law enforcement against Trokosi is still lax. Dogbadzi continues to speak out against Trokosi, traveling the country, meeting with slaves, and trying to win their emancipation.