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General News of Thursday, 22 May 2014


Witches camp national tragedy — First Lady

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo articulated and affirmed the relationship between advancement and fulfilment of rights and gender equality and equity.

Similarly, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing generated global commitments to advance a wider range of women’s rights.

At the national level, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees women’s human rights, while the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly defines the rights of women to be free from discrimination and sets the core principles to protect these rights.

In spite of all these, the abuse and violations of the rights of vulnerable persons, especially women and children and persons with disability, persist. Therefore, the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a reminder that most of these promises are yet to be implemented.

A number of women, kept in mud houses at the Gambaga Witches Camp in the Northern Region, also suffer similar abuse and human rights violations. They are accused of being witches and possessing spirits that are used to cause misfortunes among people in the family and in their communities.

To run for safety, these supposed witches seek shelter at the camp, which serves as a safe haven and ‘refugee camp’ for them. These women, accused of being the cause of the woes of their relatives and community members, live in the camp with their children and sometimes their grandchildren growing up there with little or no care and love from family and friends.

Most of the women living there are isolated and the children who live there with them do not usually go to school due to stigmatisation. Ironically, these women have come to believe that life outside the camp is harder since family and society continue to violate their rights with their hostile attitude.

In some communities, children born with deformities are described as ‘spirit children’ and they are killed or left to die without any care or attention.

But according to the First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama, who visited the Gambaga Witches Camp last week, the practice should be discouraged, describing it ‘as a national tragedy.’

While expressing her discontent about the violation of the rights of the women who have been accused of witchcraft, she said it was wrong for individuals to blame and abandon their mothers and grandmothers for allegedly being the cause of their adversities in life and banish them to a life of neglect.

She said individuals needed to take responsibility for their failures and actions instead of blaming and casting away their mothers and grandmothers.

The First Lady embarked on a project last year to provide accommodation and educational facilities to the inmates and the Gambaga community respectively.

When completed, the facility would enable the residents of the community and its surrounding areas to acquire various vocational skills so that they could learn skills to make them make a living.

Mrs Mahama said when completed, the project would be of immense help to inmates at the camp and the Gambaga community.

According to Mrs Mahama, the project is also in fulfilment of her commitment to promote girl-child education aimed at ensuring that girls are equipped meaningfully to contribute to their development.

The First Lady accompanied by the Northern Regional Minister, Mr Mohammed Muniru Limuna, visited the site to see the progress of work.

The elders of the camp expressed their gratitude to Mrs Mahama for the constant support and care she had given to the women at the camp over the years.