Operation Sirigu focuses on tackling child rights abuses associated with the widespread belief in spirit-children in the rural Kassena Nankana District.
Since 2010 it has been delivered as part of the Kassena Nankana Area Programme. It is believed that some children, known as spirits or 'Kinkirigo' have been sent to bring harm to a family and are not meant for this world. They are often orphans whose mothers died in childbirth and can be identified according to any number of characteristics, including babies who are born deformed or with complex medical conditions. This 'phenomenon' of the spirit child repeats itself across Africa and the wider world in countless ways. In the Kassena Nankana District, it is associated with infanticide and child abandonment.
Operation Sirigu is AfriKids' longest running project. Its origins go back to 1988 when an inspirational local woman, Sr Jane Naaglosegme, refused to accept innocent children being killed as evil spirits. She established a basic home for spirit children. Since this first courageous stand was made against the prevailing local practices, Operation Sirigu has grown into a movement which is transforming life for some of the most vulnerable mothers and children in northern Ghana. Much of the project focuses on the root causes of the phenomenon. It facilitates awareness talks across the district led by local nurses, women's groups who perform songs about the phenomenon, and the concoction men themselves, once responsible for killing children but now, through working with AfriKids, are at the forefront of the awareness campaign. Through micro-finance and healthcare, it empowers women to better care for their children and increases their say in decisions regarding them.
Operation Sirigu also addresses the symptoms of the spirit child phenomenon. Having worked at the heart of the community all their lives, the local team have uncovered the most desperate stories of child suffering, often linked to disability and always to families' limited capacity to care for children with special needs. In 2007 AfriKids established the Sirigu Child Rights Centre to act as a refuge for these children, where they can be cared for whilst their family is empowered to cater for them, or they are given a home at a specialist facility.