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Witchcraft accusation is still a widespread phenomenon in northern region-Songtaba reveals

As the world observed International Day of Rural Women, Rights advocates are calling for strict adherence and respect of rural women and girls rights in the northern region.

The day is marked to celebrate and recognise the contribution of rural women to national development every year on 15th October.

This year’s theme is Rural Women and Girls Building Climate Resilience is most relevant as the world is faced with the negative effects or the realities of climate change.

Songtaba and The Network Of Alleged Witches and Supported By Star Ghana Foundation is reminding Ghanaians and the international community of an age long phenomenon that has violated the rights of many women and girls and robbed them off their productive years of contributing to the nation’s development.

In a statement to mark the day, Songtaba noted that witchcraft accusation is still a widespread phenomenon in northern region resulting in the existence of five alleged witches’ camps that house about 200 women living in exclusion.

Persons accused of witchcraft they observed are in exiled into these camps and lose all family support systems and dignity.

Their social and economic rights are continuously violated, the statement said. Access to basic livelihood opportunities it added becomes a challenge to these socially excluded persons who do not have access to food, health and proper shelter.

These Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities, the statement said.

Women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation.

The situation is even worsened by women who for no faults of theirs are banished into the camps and denied of any productive resources and they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.

Data available show how significantly women have contributed to the global development especially in the areas of food security by women smallholder farmers and so therefore we will be endangering our nation if we continue to banish women out of our communities to live in excluded camps where they can no longer contribute meaningfully to national develop based on suspicion and allegations that cannot be proven.

The way-forward:

Over a decade, Songtaba have worked with both state and non-state actors as well as the alleged witches to develop strategies to put an end to this phenomenon of witchcraft accusation in the country. A reintegration committee is in place working closely with the camps leaders and gradually reintegrating the women back to their home communities.

In the last two years, Songtaba adopted a new strategy of working with district assemblies to develop Gender Equality and Social Inclusion bylaws to help reduce the incidence of witchcraft accusation and to safeguard the rights of women and girls.

Four districts in the Northern region have so far fully adopted the bylaws and have started implementing them in their districts. Another set of 5 district assemblies are at various levels of getting the bylaws passed and gazetted, the statement said.

The statement called on the general public to join the campaign to safeguarding the rights of vulnerable women and girls and also requesting the government to show commitment on this critical issue by resourcing the Ministry of gender, children and social protection to clearly put in actionable programmes to address the needs of women accused of witchcraft and the girls who accompany these women to support their chores at the camps and bring an end to these dehumanising cultural practices which violate their rights.

‘We also call on the government to put in plans towards the disbandment of the camps, traditional authorities, religious leader and relevant opinion leaders should also openly denounce these practices and show support to reintegration of the women accused of witchcraft’.



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