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Adjoa: Life as a Vidomegon

Girls demand their rights at the 'Because I am a Girl' launch event in Kandi which is located in the Alibori region of northern Benin.
Girls demand their rights at the 'Because I am a Girl' launch event in Kandi which is located in the Alibori region of northern Benin.
March 15, 2013

A vidomegon is a child, often a girl, who is sent to live the life of a servant for a wealthier family. Very often, these children have no choice in the matter. Adjoa is a vidomegon, and this is her story...

My name’s Adjoa. When Plan’s envoy asked me to tell my story, I almost refused. I was afraid because usually, people don’t notice me. But he explained, so kindly, that my story could help many other girls without voices who had similar living conditions. That was when I agreed to talk about my life.

For a long time, I was clueless and sad. But now, I’m frightened. I’m afraid for my future and what will happen when the little being that will call me ‘mother’ arrives. I’m pregnant and this should be good news. I should be joyful with hope in my heart. Instead, I am afraid, because, after all, I’m only 14 years old. Oh, excuse me; I’m starting this story from the ending...

All of this began much earlier, when I was only a little girl, living with my mother and father in my village in the Agonli region and tending the field. Life wasn’t tough or easy; what’s more, I didn’t question myself. I remember feeling happy.

One day, a woman came to the village to attend a funeral. She was a distant aunt, from the city of Cotonou. My aunt seemed so sophisticated, just like the city. She told me that if I went to live with her I would live in a big house, sit behind the wheel of a giant car, and that I could go to school. I wanted to go with her. Without hesitation, my parents accepted my decision to live with my aunt who was willing to take me into her home. I was only 7 years old.

This was the first time I’d ever left my village. I had big dreams about Cotonou, but what disenchantment upon arriving there. No car for me, no grand house, and no school. Instead, my aunt decided that it would be better for me to stay at home and help her with the housework. She did, however, promise to help me find an apprenticeship once I was older. My days were filled with work. I didn’t have friends or really anyone to talk to. Little did I know that this would continue for the next 6 years of my life. I was her vidomegon, basically invisible.

Once, my father came to visit me in Cotonou. He wanted me to go to Nigeria for work. My aunt wouldn’t allow me to leave and she threatened to call the police. My father left Cotonou, without even saying good-bye. This was the last time that I ever saw him and he passed away sometime after that.

After my father died, my grandmother came to visit. She felt that I was now old enough to get married. My aunt refused and said that I could not leave her. She said that she had invested a great deal in me. She said that she had provided me with a home to live in and food to eat. She said that since she had made this possible, I needed to stay and work in her home.

I began to wonder if my aunt would keep or even remember her promise to help me with an apprenticeship. Then, in October last year, she decided that it was time for me to have an apprenticeship.

By then, I was pregnant. Because I wouldn’t tell her the name of the father, a 20-year-old student, they sent me to back to my village. However, after my aunt spoke with my mother she suggested that I have an abortion. My aunt later changed her mind and let me return to stay in her house in Cotonou until I have the baby.

My aunt has promised that after I have the baby I can start my apprenticeship. But, I don’t know what to believe. I’m too tired and I don’t trust people enough to start a new dream for myself, let alone my child when it is born.

Plan's 'Because I am a Girl' Program in Benin

 

The 'Because I am a Girl' campaign was officially launched at an event in the community of Kandi in the Alibori region of northern Benin. Kandi is 373 miles from Cotonou and was chosen because of its alarming child marriage and school attendance rates.

'Because I Am a Girl' is Plan's global initiative which seeks to create sustainable projects in developing countries. These projects give girls access to the most basic of human rights: clean water, food, healthcare, education, financial security, and protection from violence and exploitation.

Through our rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration projects and centers, Plan reaches out to marginalized girls to protect them from violence, exploitation, and servitude. For girls like Adjoa, Plan's protection and rehabilitation programs provide vocational training and psychological support.

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