Monday, November 26, 2012
BARNISHED WITCHES FORM THERE OWN VILLAGE
Women in northern Ghana accused of being witches have formed a new village after being banished by their communities. A report compiled by international aid charity ActionAid spoke of both elderly and young women Ghanaian who must live in the ‘witch camps’ until they die. The report, titled ‘Condemned without trial: women and witchcraft in Ghana’, describes six ‘witch’ camps’ in Northern Ghana, Gambaga, Kukuo, Gnani, Bonyase, Nabuli and Kpatinga. “Some camps came in to existence as long as 100 years ago and mostly consist of mud huts. Women in the camps have to walk many miles to collect water, food is in short supply health and education services are very limited,” said a Daily Mail story based on the ActionAid report. ActionAid sees the camps as being “effectively women’s prisons where the inmates have been given no trial, have no right of appeal, but have received a life sentence.” Among the cases cited in the report is that of Sano Kojo, 66, who has lived in one of the camps for more than 30 years after she was accused of killing her cousin. She said: “People don’t care about the alleged witches. Once you are here you are forgotten.” How they identify the alleged witches Many of the women, who number into the hundreds, were been accused of being witches by relatives or neighbours. Once an accusation is made they are banished from their villages and sometimes chased out by a violent mob. Often young female relatives are sent with them to live in the camp as an ‘attendant’ and also live in the same appalling conditions, facing terrible discrimination. In some cases, the fate of the women is determined not by the elders of their village, but by the dying contortions of a slaughtered chicken. If the chicken falls with its head down and its feet in the air, the woman is declared a witch. If it falls feet down, her innocence is declared. However, regardless of the outcome, once an accusation has been made a woman will be sent to the camp whether she’s ‘guilty’ or not, just in case some villagers do not believe her innocence. Ordeal of the alleged witches Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, ActionAid Ghana Country Director, said: “Women accused of being witches find their lives have been snatched away from them. The violence and brutality many face is shocking. These women are at the mercy of their accusers who destroy their lives and condemn them to a life of imprisonment.” Almost every woman accused of being a witch is poor and powerless, according to ActionAid. A survey of the camps found more than 70 per cent of women were accused of being witches after their husbands died. The survey also found one in three women in the camp was not earning money before they were accused of being a witch and were seen as an economic burden by their community. However, the camps do provide sanctuary for women accused of being witches, as many in their communities believe the women cannot practice witchcraft once they are in a camp. ActionAid has called on the government of Ghana to ensure the basic human rights of women in the camps are upheld with access to health and education services. It also appealed to the international community and UK government to do all they can to address issues relating to the ‘witch’ camps’ and engage with the Ghanaian government to ensure women’s human rights are protected Who will want to visit such village?