After the failure of crops, the death of a child or an unexplained event, there is a tendency in some Ghanaian communities to suspect witchcraft as the culprit. While no evidence is actually required, the results are almost always disastrous for the women accused.
An Unfortunate Turn of Events
The death of Magazia’s second husband marked a turning point in her life. After refusing a proposal from his brother-in-law—it is custom in Ghana for a woman to be offered to her husband’s next brother—she was accused of being a witch.
Her brother-in-law reported to the village chief that a young child had confided in him that Magazia has attempted to kill her and was a witch. Although based solely on suspicion, the allegations were taken seriously and Magazia was beaten severely and threatened.
The Gambaga Outcast Home
Wounded and fearing for her life, Magazia saw no alternative but to leave her children and community and travel 2 to 3 hours on foot to the Gambaga Outcast Home—a place of refuge for women in northern Ghana who have been branded “witches” by their communities.
At the camp, life is hard—the housing is poor, there are very few ways to earn an income and the children who accompany women to the camps have their lives and education disrupted. Others leave their families behind, unable to return home for fear of persecution.
Although Magazia’s brother-in-law later informed the chief that the child who accused Magazia had only dreamt the ordeal, the damage had been done, she would not be accepted back into the community.
PWS&D and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana are working to improve conditions in the camps, offer formal education to children, provide livelihood training, as well as conduct outreach with local communities.
Through advocacy and awareness initiatives, communities are learning about human rights, respect for women and the elderly, as well as the causes, prevention and treatment of health issues and disabilities that are traditionally associated with witchcraft.
Today, Magazia lives at Gambaga with two of her children. She is an organizer of the project – helping women come to terms with their experiences and re-enter their communities.
Though we often think of development in simple concrete terms, dignity and respect for human rights are essential components of sustainable development. By working with communities to overcome the prejudices that lead to accusations of witchcraft, the women involved in the Gambaga Go Home project are enabled to return home, reclaim their dignity and feel valued by their communities.
How You Can Help
Help continue this important work by making a donation to PWS&D today. You can make a donation by calling 1-800-619-7301 ext. 291, donate online, through your church, or mail a cheque to the PWS&D office.