News / Africa

Ghana's Witch Camps Slow to Close

Alleged witches gather in Kukuo village, Northern Ghana (Jane Hahn/ActionAid).
Alleged witches gather in Kukuo village, Northern Ghana (Jane Hahn/ActionAid).
Joana Mantey
ACCRA - In northern Ghana, efforts are under way to disband six shelters for women accused of sorcery, known as "witch camps." Policy makers and some non-profit groups are working together to get the women reintegrated into their communities, but the plan is running into obstacles.

Witch camps are settlements for women banished or fleeing from their communities for alleged witchcraft. They are located in Gambaga, Kukuo, Gnani, Bonyansi, Naboli and Kpatinga - all scattered settlements in the northern region of Ghana.

More than 600 women and 300 children still reside in these camps despite decades of campaigning for the closure of such places.

ActionAid Ghana is a human rights organization championing the rights of these women. The country director, Ajoa Kwarteng Kluvitse, says most people accused of witchcraft are old women or widows who lack support from influential people, or women whose actions do not fall within the communities' conception of normal behavior.

"There was one case where a young girl was extremely bright and the allegation was that she had used witchcraft to take the intelligence of her classmates. So if you are a woman who is extremely bright, very astute at business, is able to amass wealth, a woman who is challenging and not docile, any of these can lead to allegations of witchcraft," said Kluvitse.

Stigma

These isolated camps often lack running water, social services and education for the women's children. Kluvitse says many women hope that by going to these camps and subjecting themselves to tests, they can prove they are not sorcerers will be allowed to go back home. But she says the witch stigma is hard to shed.

"There are rituals that are gone through in all the camps which are supposed to determine your guilt or innocence. Usually it’s through a chicken and how the chicken dies when the neck is cut. Even if the chicken dies in a position that proves you are innocent, it is very difficult to return home," said Kluvitse.

Many women who pass the so-called innocence tests still do not go home for fear of attacks or they will be blamed for community deaths or other tragedies.

Kluvitse says ActionAid has been working to improve living conditions at the camps by providing clean water, clothing and skill training programs. She says the goal is not to turn the camps into permanent homes, but rather meet the fundamental human rights of these women and children.

The ultimate goal to to get these women reintegrated back into their communities.  Although rights groups have been pushing for closure of the camps for decades, it was only the 2010 high profile burning of a alleged witch that spurred more official action to close the camps and discourage anyone from making witchcraft allegations.

Cultural attitudes

Concerns have been raised that the government and civil rights groups are not moving fast enough and that a detailed action plan is needed to facilitate disbanding the witch camps.

But, changing cultural attitudes across a country is a far larger task than ridding Ghana of witch camps. It is one of several reasons Kluvitse says closing the camps cannot be done overnight.

"A lot of these women left their homes 20 to 30 years ago," said Kluvitse. "Their huts left behind have been dilapidated. Somebody has to refurbish the huts. We need to see what skills we can give these women so they are not totally dependent on the family. We need to look at how to integrate their grand children and great grand children into school. So all these come at a cost ."

Kluvitse says the most important goal is not closing the camps but helping the women return back home with dignity, without having to face fresh allegations of witchcraft.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nii Okai Tetteh from: Ghana at heart
May 24, 2012 6:34 PM
What is wrong with you? These camps have been set up by local people in Ghana for the women's protection, why? because they needed them! You can't just come in and say "we don't agree with these camps, we think they should close and the women go back to their communities". This is the perfect example of people coming in to try and impose their will on indigenous people. You do not know what could grow from those camps in future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid