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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs