As part of activities to commemorate this year’s 16 days of activism, ActionAid Ghana and partner Songtaba organised a 2-day conference of stakeholders on the announced disbandment of the six alleged witches’ camps, in the Northern Region, by government. The conference which took place from the 29th to 30th November, 2011, culminated in the issuance of a communiqué by stakeholders including the alleged witches, their children and grandchildren, Priests and Priestess presiding over the camps, Traditional and religious leaders, Local Government officials and CSOs.
To whip up public support for the demands made of government by the alleged witches, their children and grandchildren, ActionAid and partner Songtaba further organised a public 3km walk through the principal streets of Tamale, the Northern Regional Capital, on Saturday, December 10, 2011. The walk dubbed ‘walking in solidarity with alleged witches’, brought CSOs, AAG and partners, Keep-fit clubs in Tamale, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and the general public together to walk side by side with the alleged witches, their children and grandchildren calling for safe disbandment of the camps, an end to witchcraft allegations, respect of women’s rights to dignified lives among other demands. Participants carried placards, banners and posts with inscriptions, while singing and chanting various messages like;
- “Northern Region has 6 alleged witches’ camps –SHAME!”
- “Alleged witches have human rights, respect them”
- “Government must act to restore the human rights of the alleged witches”
- “Why are the alleged witches always old women?”
- “Banishing of women into camps is unjust”
Over 1200 people participated in the walk which started from the Golden Jubilee Park and stopped at the Palace of the Chief of Tamale, Naa Dakpemah Dawuni.
At the ‘Dakpemah’s’ Palace, the Country Director of AAG, Adwoa Kluvitse, while commending the Chief for being a women’s rights advocate, called on him to work with his fellow traditional leaders and chiefs to end the embarrassment of the Region being the only host to as many as six alleged witches camp and to ensure the violation of the rights of women stops.
Speaking on behalf of the alleged witches, their children and grandchildren, Mariama Nankpandzo, the President of ‘Tigubtaba’, the Network of alleged witches, called on the general public to stop levelling witchcraft allegations against vulnerable women and the associated banishment, lynching and molestation.
She expressed their desire to go back to their homes and communities of origin but cautioned that they could only go back if their safety is assured. They reiterated their demand on government to adopt a multi-stakeholder, cautious and systematic approach to the disbandment of the Camps.
In his response, the Dakpemah pledged his commitment to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the rights of women, especially, alleged witches. He demanded of his subjects to stop witchcraft allegations, banishment and lynching of women suspected to be witches. Naa Dakpemah added that since the phenomenon of witchcraft stemmed from entrenched traditional beliefs, it is imperative to intensify education and sensitization of the public on the issue. The Chief ended by calling on all sub-chiefs under his jurisdiction to make sure not a single person, especially woman, is banished, beaten, lynched or molested on suspicion of being a witch and further instructed them to protect all women facing any form of abuse.
The walk afforded the alleged witches, their children and grandchildren, AAG and other stakeholders the opportunity to educate the public on the rights violations against women alleged to be witches and their children in order to stop further witchcraft allegations. It also provided a platform to solicit public support for the demands of the alleged witches. The huge turnout for the walk is an indication that progress is being made towards getting the public to understand and to stand with the alleged witches in fighting to secure lives of dignity for them. The message of the revered Chief of Tamale is also a good signal that Traditional leaders are beginning to understand these rights violations against women and going beyond that to speak against the violations.
The walk ended at the Golden Jubilee Park after the courtesy call on the Chief of Tamale, with solidarity messages from CHRAJ, NCCE, AAG staff and Board.