Alleged witches must be integrated into LEAD programme – ActionAid

ActionAid-Ghana and Songtaba, both non-governmental organizations, have appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to work with the Department of Social Welfare to enroll all alleged witches onto the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme to ensure their sustainable livelihood.

The NGOs through the Reintegration of Alleged Witches Committee also called on the government, ministries, agencies and the general public to make it a priority to protect the vulnerable women particularly women accused of witchcraft practices to make their lives positive.

Mr. Mahama Amadu Jaama, Secretary of the Committee on Reintegration was addressing the press in Tamale on Friday as part of activities to mark the International Women’s Day celebration on the theme: “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”.

He said the region is host to six witches camps with a population of 567 stressing that their living conditions in the camps were devastating and worse than refugees’ camps, adding that ‘food, clothing and shelter are woefully inadequate to deal with their basic needs’.

He said even though the government in 2011 promised to integrate the alleged witches and close all the camps, very little had been done by the government to redeem its promise. He noted that the government even lacked the road map or concrete strategies to carry out that action.

Mr. Jaama said with the support from ActionAid and Songtaba, the Committee successfully reintegrated 38 alleged witches to their communities through community sensitization against fresh cases, providing technical support to the camps.

He said even though much efforts were being made to stop all new cases, 19 new cases were recorded across the camps, a situation the Committee regretted and appealed to communities where such negative cultural practices were taking place to stop since it was an affront to their human rights.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Emmanuel Holortu, Northern Regional Coordinator of Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DVVSU) described the conditions in the witches camps as dehumanizing and a violation of their fundamental human rights stressing that the Police would not take it kindly with people who abused others just on mere suspicion without concrete prove.

He observed that witchcraft accusations in the region were seasonal and tailored towards economic bases without its universal trend, saying ‘the accusations in the northern parts of the country were economically based’.

Some of the alleged witches who were at the press conference expressed their desire to return home to join their families but expressed the fear of being stigmatized and socially excluded from their kid and kind.

One of the alleged witches; Madam Gumah Wuni from the Gambaga Camp, who was reintegrated, had returned to the camp because of social exclusion explaining that she had lost most of her dependants on return home hence her return.

Source: GNA

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