Sensitization efforts needed before disbandment of ‘witches’ Camps – NGO

Southern Sector Youth and Women’s Empowerment Network (SOSYWEM) a non-governmental organization, has suggested that ‘witches’ camps must not be disbanded until sensitisation efforts have proved successful and the accusation and violence against the women have stopped.

“If this is not done, the same violence will be carried out in secrecy and violence against older and vulnerable women will increase,” Ms Zenabu Lomoteley Sakibu, Project Coordinator for SOSYWEM, has said.

She said this at a media interaction in Accra at the weekend to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which fell on November 25.

She said disbanding the camps before sensitisation efforts have proved successful would make the women homeless without even a place to seek some protection and would only exacerbate their plight.

A ‘Witches’ Camp is a place which serves as a home for alleged witches after their accusation. Witches are believed to be people who have magical powers for causing evil in the society.

She said the organization believed that such early disbandment of the camps was the wrong response to the problem.

She said their research had showed the lack of understanding of how deeply engrained the beliefs in witchcraft are in these communities and how difficult it is to encourage the people to accept accused ‘witches’ back home.

She said there has been a recent publication in one of the newspapers announcing that the intention of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs that , “Beginning next year, the ‘Witches’ Camps in the Northern Ghana will be disbanded while plans are far to collaborate with local opinion leaders and others to halt the practice…”.

“SOSYWEM is pleased that attention is being given to the plight of women in the ‘witches’ camps and also to implement a strategy to end witchcraft accusation and the violence meted out to the accused women,” she explained.

Ms Sakibu said her outfit had worked extensively with the women in the camps for many years and has found that most of the women were very fearful of returning to their communities explaining that, knowing that they would be violently abused, beaten or even killed, they preferred to live in relative security of the camp.

She also recounted that experience had shown that even in the rare case that an accused woman was accepted back home, it could take about 5-10 years of sensitisation efforts before the community would agree to re-integration.

Ms Sakibu urged the Government to strengthen the capacity of the Police Service and the Judiciary to deal with these violations of women’s rights swiftly and to effectively deter others from accusing and violently abusing more women.

She also called for the provision of basic necessities in the ‘witches’ camps including potable water, health insurance and insecticide treated bed nets.

“Put in place a longer-term strategy to abolish the ‘witches’ camps and ensure that any cultural practice that dehumanizes women have no place in our society,” she added.

She said her outfit planned to collaborate with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to sensitise community members on the practice, while working with close partners, including District Assemblies, the Police Service, Ghana Health Service and the Commission on Human Rights and Administration Justice.

Source: GNA

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