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Opinions of Thursday, 24 September 2015

Columnist: Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Dipo Rite: Could it be the cause of alleged promiscuity in Krobo Women?

As I delve into the story making rounds that krobo women are promiscuous, one thing that also came into my mind is the dipo rite our women undergo to usher them into womanhood.After I interviewed some notable people who demystifiedthat OkomfoAnokyecursedkrobo women, the issue of the dipo rite also came into my mind.

You see, Prostitution and promiscuity can be found in every tribe. It is even more in other tribes than in ours.OkomfoAnokye didn't curse our women .Did he? The Krobo story is a big joke.

But let look at this, since for every rumors there is a little bit of truth, could our puberty rite (dipo) be a bad practice or have a role to play in our women been promiscuous? Because,It makes the child free to go for a man after the rite. I think our puberty rite must be stop and if it is really true that OkomfoAnokye cursed our women this contract more to the curse since okomfoanokye was a native god we all know and the rite too can never be performed without the god’sasem s3b3!

Dipo festival is the greatest legacy of Krobo land and the dangme community at large. It is celebrated in the month of April by the people of Manya and YiloKrobo in the towns of KroboOdumase and Somanya, in the Eastern Region, located some 80 kilometres north of Accra. The festival is one of the famous and important festivals in Ghana. The shai and the Ada people alsoperform this rite.

Dipo is an initiative festival also known as Puberty rites, is a celebration that initiates adolescent girls to womanhood. Beside the pride it brings to the participant and the entire family, it is believed that girls, who go through this ritual successfully, before they “touch” a man, become very good wives. The objective is for the girls to preserve their virginity before getting married. It is therefore important that those who go through rites have their virginity intact.

As the time of the festival approaches, announcement is made on behalf of the Earth goddess, Nana Kloweki for every parent whose daughter is qualified, usually by age, to get them prepared. Qualified girls are sent to the traditional chief priest for the rite, following the announcement.

The mode of celebration is that, adolescent girls are decorated in beautiful beads and half-clothed. The Dipo girls, traditionally called Dipo-yi are dressed in beautiful cloth only from the waist to the knee level. The upper part of the body is exposed and festooned with colourful and assorted beads. The exposure of their breasts for everyone to see signifies that, they are transforming into adulthood, after which no one will see them again.

You see, as demons or satanic forces also enjoyed beautiful things, don’t you think demons can invade into our women as they exposed their bodies and make them promiscuous?

Two days are set aside for the festivities. These girls undergo a series of rituals, test and tasks to prove their chastity and readiness for adult life. On the first day of the ceremony, the girls are paraded in public in their ceremonial dress and their heads are shaved leaving a small portion of hair on the head. A piece of raffia is tied around their neck to signify they are now Dipo-yi, undergoing initiation.

On the next morning, the girls are given a ritual bath in a river and then required to taste foods like sugar cane and peanuts.Can’t the gods in the river also have effect on the women or probably any spiritual married can take place there?

A tri-liabation is poured using three different drinks, preferably, two local ones including palm wine and a foreign drink mostly, Schnapps. This is done to ask for the blessing of the gods for the girls undergoing the initiation.

Every parent of the girls presents a castrated goat which is then slaughtered and the blood used to wash the feet of the girls by the local chief priest. This symbolizes washing away any bad omen and misfortune that might prevent the girls from having babies in the future. The girls then sit on a special traditional stool covered with a white cloth. A solution of clay (Hyire) is used to make marks and designs on their body. The intestines of the goats slaughtered are then wrapped around their shoulders and neck. They are then taken to a shrine where they’re asked to sit on a sacred stone three times, in the presence of the chief priest, elders and parents. It is believed that any girl who is not a virgin but pretends to be one will not be able to get up after sitting on the sacred stone. This is because it is believed that the stone is holy and pure and only virgin can sit on it. This marks the end of the rituals section and the girls are sent home in the midst of drumming, dancing and jubilation.
The girls are confined for about a week, where they are taught about everything to become a successful and a good Krobo woman. Tribal marks are made on their hands to indicate that they have passed through the rite and are now part of women in the community. Elephant skin is tied around their head believed to ensure fertility.

After the one week of behind-the-scenes training, they are released into the society. They richly display their beautiful beads and dress in silk or kente fabric, amidst singing and dancing the traditional Klama dance they go round to thank all friends and family members for the part they played during the entire process. They also receive gifts from friends and love ones.

If a girl becomes pregnant before going through the rite, Kukudipo is rather performed on both the girl and the man responsible for the pregnancy. This rite is in the form of punishment for not maintaining chastity before marriage. This is also to deter other young girls growing up to be patient until the right time, before indulging in any unchaste activities.

The Dipo festival has gone through some modifications due to so many factors including, abuse of human rights and also children born through Kukudipo are often disowned by the parents families and the entire society since they believe the child is cursed.

Despite all these modification, the sole aim of the festival is to minimize, if not prevent, teenage pregnancy and also teach the young woman to be ready to take care of her own family in future. Hence, the idea still prevails and it is very interesting to witness this aspect of the art culture of Krobo land

In the dangme land, during thediporites the ladies are taught how to be good women. You must be a virgin before you undergo the dipo rite. They teach them how to cook, cater for their private parts, and even teach them how to have better sex to keep their men and this is why probably people assume it is Anokye who cursed the Krobo women! So could the dipo rite and what these young girls are taught on sexual issues prepare them alreadyfor sexual acts?

In those days, I know the men have to carry the young girls to climb the mountains during the dipo rite and the men who carries them also tries to marry them or befriend them immediatelyafter the dipo rite because the men knows that the girls are better prepared and they are virgins so eventually if for instance the marriage or the relationship did not go on well and leads to divorce, don’t you think that this could leads to some psychosocial or emotional problem and the young girl who is already exposed to sexual techniques and acrobatic displays can start jumping from one man to the other?

I think the dipo rite should also be revisited and they should not allow the men to marry them at the tender age and rather prepare the ladies and advise them to be of aged and mature enough before entering into marriage. Probably, during the dipo rite, there should be a marriage counselor or life coach counselor to educate the young girls on the realities of life and relationship in general. I think this will also help our women to be better in the future to get out the myth of OkomfoAnokye cursing our women on sexual issues.

Till then and before I launch my book “The state of the dangme land”-Are we endangered species? I provide very detail information in the dangme land and the way forward, stay bless and there is no truth that OkomfoAnokye cursed our women. But judging from what I said so far on the dipo rite and sexual issues,do you think that the dipo ritecan also contribute to probably what people are saying about our women and sexual issues and not rather OkomfoAnokye cursed on our women as they are taught on sexual issues and early marriage by some men after the rite?

While there is argument suggesting that dipo is detrimental to women’s health, it is apparent that poverty is what has caused much of the struggles women face in ManyaKrobo and the entire dangme land. But, don’t you think that the dipo rite that allowed our women to expose their naked bodies to the communities, the gods could probably accounts for the promiscuity people are linking to the krobo women? Don’t you also think that the issue of teaching them how to be sexually good in bed and some men marrying the young girls as early as possible could also be another factor if eventually the marriage fails? Don’t you think that it is about time the dipo rite should employed psychosocial counselors or life coachers to be part of the dipo rite to help them deal with life or relationship issues? I leave the rest to you to judge because the dangme land deserves better in Ghana and the dangme man is capable of becoming a national assets!

Dr. Raphael NyarkoteyObu is a registered Naturopathic doctor who specializes in prostate cancer and a PhD candidate in prostate cancer and alternative medicines –IBAM Academy, Kolkata, India. My research focuses on men of West African descent and prostate cancer and the dangme people. He can be reached on 0500106570 for all contributions. E-mail:oburalph30@yahoo.co.uk. He is the director of Men’s Health Foundation Ghana; De Men’s Clinic & Prostate Research Lab-Dodowa,Akoo House. He is currently working on his book” The state of the dangme”

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