Portraits of Strength: Resilience Of Women Exiled As ‘Witches’
The Kukuo Witch Camp located in the Namumba South District of Northern Ghana is one of the only witch camps in the world. There are currently hundreds of women alleged to be ‘witches’ facing a lack of human rights, discrimination and fierce social stigmatism having been exiled from their communities.
The remaining Witch Camps in Ghana are vastly separated from other communities and the majority of the accusations start from a death in the family or a dream somebody has. Almost every case is traced back to inheritance issues or a woman becoming a burden due to age or being widowed. The only trial the women face is mob justice. Once in the camps, they will work on local maize or henna farms. Many of the women wish to improve their access to water, some have lived in the camps as long as 30 years and despite being over 80 years old walk hours daily to carry water pumped from a community well.
Kasue Kalahar, 85, says, “I was a widow. I moved into my sister’s house to care for her while she was sick. After she died, my nephew said to me ‘Auntie- stop chasing me in my dreams. Stop it or I will take my own actions.’ The next morning everyone in my family had left and I was in the house alone. The chief came and banished me as a witch.”
Awabu Issaheku of Kukuo was accused to be a witch by her sister in law after she was widowed and moved in with her brother, “I pray for the Government to help” she said.
ActionAid reports that in 2016, Witch accusations not only increased but also became common in developed cities such as Tamale, a shock to the international organization who have been working in the camps since 2006.
Shani Abdul Kasiru, the head of policy and program for NGO Songtaba, expressed his surprise at the new accusations in urban areas stating the NGO’s had perhaps “overlooked that urban areas were enlightened”.
The landlord of the Witch Camp in Tindan-zie Sampa Asammusa explained “The government have the power to help, but the government isn’t everywhere to put their policies into force. The people will do what they want. Our communities lack social infrastructure and most of the women here have been accused by their own family- so how can they turn home?”
“Whether or not the camps close depends on peoples attitudes.” Says Adamu Dasana, a previously accused witch who has been rehoused back into her community by Action Aid after living in the Witch Camp since 1968. “I am able to sell more things and have a pipe for water. I spend time with my four grandchildren everyday, so yes life is better for me now.”
It is crucial for Pastors, Imams, Chiefs and Politicians to speak about about these issues and desensitize the situation so that the accusations stop and the stigma changes so these women are able to return home.
Photos and text by Louise Wateridge