One of the most painful passages to write in Does God Hate Women? was the one about women accused of being witches in Ghana. It drew on news reports, like this from the New Jersey Star Ledger:
Near death after a 30-mile, weeklong walk, Tarana says she arrived at the Gambaga camp, which has sheltered accused witches since the late 18th century. Chief Ganbaraaba, she says, took her in, had her wounds tended to, and sent for Tarana’s children.
Not one has come.
You can see why that segment was tough going.
While Adijah Iddrissu’s doll-like hands busy themselves shelling groundnuts, her large piercing eyes track her grandmother.
At 7, Adijah already has put in a year at Kpatinga…
Iddrissu explains: ‘I would love to send Adijah to school, but I really need her to work.’
Fifteen of the 45 outcasts at Kpatinga have a granddaughter with them. Like Adijah, none goes to school. What’s worse, many of the girls cannot slide back into their communities after their grandmothers die. To do so means being stigmatized possibly stoned — as punishment for associating with a witch.
They, too, will live out their lives in exile.
Burkina Faso is taking some small steps to help women accused of being witches.
In Burkina Faso, when a death is deemed suspicious, a group of men carry the corpse through the community, believing the deceased will guide them towards the person responsible for the death. The accused – almost always women – are then chased out of their homes.
According to the ministry for social action and national solidarity, about 600 women across the country have fallen victim to this practice. Most have found precarious shelter at one of 11 centres around the country, run by NGOs.
The steps are small though. Some say too small.
Although civil society and human rights organisations welcomed the action plan, they are not entirely satisfied with the government’s ambition on the issue.
“Contrary to what many people think, we could quickly put an end to this phenomenon,” said Zongo, who directs CJP’s programmes against social exclusion. “It calls for clear legislation; for example, we could ban ‘the bearing of the body’. The authorities must be more ambitious to achieve the plan’s objectives. We feel they are not very proactive.”
Dacouré believes any approach that attempts simply to punish people who threaten and beat women accused of witchcraft will fail. She points out that such actions are carried out by crowds that are difficult to prosecute, convict and sentence en masse. Instead, she suggests measures that would oblige the head of the community, perhaps even the chief, to pay damages to the victim.
“I’m convinced that when we target the wallets of these people who burn down women’s houses, who assault and exclude women like this – when, instead of the government taking care of the victims, we go into their pockets for money to reintegrate people – they’ll think more carefully before they act,” said Dacouré.
Crowds, is it? So…these women are scapegoats? Hate figures set up for the pleasure and amusement of the crowd? What does that remind me of…