By: Elizabeth Baah, GIJ
“Dipo” is the name of the “process through which a young girl become an adult woman, fully integrated within her society. It is celebrated by people of “Manya” and “Yilo Krobo”, in “Krobo Odumase” and “Somanya” in the eastern region. It is performed in April every year which ushers puberty girls who were virgins and signifies that a lady who partake in it is ripe for marriage.
“Krobo” is derived from the word “AKRO”. Their Akans named them “Kro Obo So Fo” which means mountain dwellers. The “Krobo”ancestral home has been identified with the locality of Upper Niger or Kwara River, traditionally known as“SAME” or “SABERMA”. The ‘Krobos” and the Gas once belonged to a big nation.
The “Krobo’s” are grouped as part of Ga-Dangme ethno linguistic group and they are the largest group of the seven Dangbe ethnic groups of South-Eastern Ghana. The Krobo region is highly known for pearls and the initiation rites (Dipo) which apply to girls only.
Parents upon hearing announcement of the rite send their qualified girls to their chief priest. However, these girls will have to go through test and rituals to prove that they are qualified for the “Dipo” rites.
Dipo is not a mere ritual. It involves a full week training in housewifery and childcare calculated to keep girls chaste and competent for marriage. Girls from age twenty-one are admitted into this training. At the right season, all girls of the “dipo” age are taken to the fetish priest and each is given a necklace and strand of leaves to wear.
Little cuts are made on the backs of their hands, and one by one they lift up a small grinding stone and placed it on larger stone trice each. Their introduction to the grinding stone marks the beginning of the “dipo” rite. They are kept from grinding for some time until they are taken to another part of the mountain “Tegbe te” or “Tegbe rock” and given a Dipo- headwear, a tall straw hat.
After a week, a sheep is provided by the parents of the” dipo” girls. The animals slaughtered and disemboweled, the intestines cleaned and inflated. The inflated intestine was wrapped around their shoulders; they were then conducted to the “Tegbe rock”.
This “Tegbe te” is a bit higher than other rocks around. Each initiate is made to sit on the rock and stand, this is repeated three times. The girls are then led to their homes amidst great rejoicing, gun firing and songs. This isa great joy because the girls had maintained their chastity till they are “ripped” for marriage.
In an interview with Maa Dam, a fetish priestess from kpogunor, a suburb of Odumase revealed that, back in the days, the circumcision of a male child among “Krobos” called for a celebration and merry making. This is because it signifies that the child will grow to become real man in the community and any male child who wasn’t circumcised was regarded an outcast.
In order to do something similar for girls, the celebration of “dipo” was introduced. According to her, any who didn’t partake in the “dipo” initiation before becoming pregnant was banished. As a result, such girls found it difficult to get husbands to marry because they are considered outcasts.
Also, Maa salomey tetteh, one of the women who initiates the girls in the ‘dipo” process through an interview said that, the “dipo” rite is an important rite in the life of every “Krobo” girl to go through the process. She said during the period of “dipo”, girls are thought how to go about with their house chores of which include sweeping, cooking, washing and many others. They are taught how to bath, relate with people especially their husbands to be.
Dede Ayongo, one of the girls who have gone through the “dipo” rite also said in an interview that, the “dipo” initiate has been very helpful as she got to learn a lot through the process. According to her she learnt how to sweep well, cook and how to relate well with her peers.
“Dipo” festival has been modified due to many factors including the abuse of human right and also girls who do not partake in the process are no longer considered outcast. The purpose of the celebration is to prevent teenage pregnancy and also teach the young women to be ready to take care of their own future in the future.