Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So Those Witch Camps Never Actually Closed

I suppose, all things considered, it really was too good to be true. About a year ago I posted an article about "witch camps" in the African nation of Ghana, and what at the time sounded like a solid, definitive statement from the government that they would be shut down soon. Unfortunately, this never happened and the camps are still in operation.

More than 800 women are living in various “witch camps” in Ghana, after being accused of practicing witchcraft. ActionAid Ghana country director Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse said the charges are made usually with no proof or trial. Her group is working to make life in the camps better for the women with the hope of changing attitudes, so the women can return safely to their home villages.

“We started working with these women on empowering them as seeing themselves as people who have rights and people who can demand rights,” said Kwateng-Kluvitse. Now the group has turned to capacity building to help the women reach out to their communities and “enable these women to be able to go home safely.”

As the article notes, part of the problem is that once someone is accused of witchcraft in many African nations, they can face violent "retaliation" for their supposed crimes, which usually don't even exist. So even if the government decided to close the camps tomorrow, many of these women would still never be able to return home to the villages in which they were originally accused. Public opinion surrounding witchcraft and its alleged practitioners is still an enormous problem in many African nations, and hopefully the ActionAid organization can make some progress towards resolving it. Even so, they have a long way to go.

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3 comments:

Simon Tomasi said...

Closing the camps was never going to solve the root of the problem. There needs to be a national awareness campaign to bring about a mind-shift that will reduce if not eliminate the stigmatization of these men and women. The TV and radio channels don't help either. It would not surprise me if in a year's time there are witch camps and gay camps (no pun intended).

Scott Stenwick said...

We can hope it won't come to that, but if it did I can't say I would be all that surprised. When it comes to witchcraft and the paranormal, not to mention LGBT issues, much of Africa is a mess. It would take a better advertising man than me to get it across that accusing the neighbor up the street that you don't happen to like isn't helping anyone.

Simon Tomasi said...

From what I have heard (hence insert massive disclaimer here) there are a number of Evangelical organizations that have a lot of prominence on TV and are in my opinion make a bad situation much worse.

When someone is stigmatized with the label "witch", they are in effect dehumanized. There has been at least one good documentary on the people in the witch camps. Telling the human side of the story of what happens to people who end up in the camps is a relatively simple, cheap and IMO effective way of educating people about what is happening.