Supporting the Sanctuaries for Outcasts in Ghana

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The two Camps in Gushiegu

Gushiegu has two settlements for witch-hunt victims. Three kilometres away from town lies “Gushiegu Camp”, housing 45 women. Downtown more than 60 women live in different homes. Some have even found a helpful family who fosters them, others have married again.

Gushiegu Camp
Gushiegu Camp

The blue and green buildings from cement are overcrowded – now clay huts are added. The women here suffer from malnutrition, very hard labour, aging and water-born diseases.

Gushiegu Town
Gushiegu Town

In Town several compounds exist, where women have potable water in reach but are far away from the fields they seasonally are employed to work on. Some complain about indifference of former donations who just went to Gushiegu Camp. We want to tell everyone that Gushiegu has not only Gushiegu camp but more than 100 women accused of witchcraft. As we know all of them, we distribute donations according to everyones needs.

Einfacher Haarschnitt im Gushiegu Camp
Simple Haircut Gushiegu Camp

Showers between the houses let water trickle outside. Goats block us from using grey water to water tomatoes, Bananas and Passion Fruits. Living fences are under construction and hopefully finished next year.

Lehmhauserweiterung in Gushiegu Camp
Traditional huts in Gushiegu Camp

In Gushiegu Camp clay huts are added to provide more space. Whoever is supported by children or relatives could buildt a clay-hut like these. We want to add a larger, moscito-proof clay-hut for visitors and hopefully volunteers.

Children at the Camps

There are children living in all sanctuaries and Ghettoes. Most of them are granddaughters helping their grandmothers in exile, sometimes younger women are accompanied by their own children. Most of the time the children are left at the husbands home and are separated from the mother even in very young age.

In Gambaga Simon Ngota’s former “Gambaga Outcast Home Project” was able to enroll al children at school. School-uniforms and food had to be provided. The son of one woman had achieved secondary school which made all of the women very proud. We want to send all children at the sanctuaries and ghettoes to school and provide a good education for them. This means also to raise a generation with close bonds to witch-hunt victims and a high awareness for their problems.  At Gushiegu Camp a 4-5 year old girl, Zafira, is the only child permanently present.

In town several children are living with their grandmothers.

This child “passed out” and took a nap in the shade of a brick-hut in Kpatinga.

This woman married again in Gushiegu which is an accepted way out of the homes. Sometimes marriage is taken as an indicator for the attitude of neighbouring communities toward the women accused of witchcraft.

This mother has just died. She suffered from a chronical disease (TB likely) and relied on her daughter as a carrier. We registered her in May and sent her to hospital but she interrupted antibiotic treatment because of side-effects. In future, we want to guide the women to the hospital and explain her the treatment and the importance of taking the full course.

Witch-hunts in Northern Ghana

Witch-hunts are a current problem. During the last two decades tens of thousands had been murdered mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. This might already outnumber the devastative european witch-hunts during Rennaissance (1500-1600).  In many areas it is elderly women, but also men or children are accused of bringing death, draughts, crop-failure, unemployment, accidents or diseases by spiritual means.  People fear witchcraft and sorcery mainly from close relatives and neighbours – people they know and maybe even love. In general the belief in god and demons, spirits and witches is very, very strong throughout Ghana. This includes all religions, christians, muslims, traditionalists. One unsolved question is therefore: Why is it that almost everyone beliefs in spiritual powers but just some people decide to accuse others and even kill them?

In Northern Ghana eight settlements for witch-hunt victims exist. The two largest camps at Kukuo and Gnaani/Tindang shelter around 2000 refugees of both sexes, the other six shelter another 500 women. In Kukuo are women, who were accused as their hair turned grey. In Gushiegu, most of the women are Konkomba as are in Nabuli. In Kpatinga, Dagomba and Konkomba mix while in Gambaga most tribes from all over Northern Region are present. Many of the Konkomba were accused with a dream named as “proof”. In this “witch dream” a person sees itself attacked by the person later on accused as a witch. Many people regard this as proof or at least as a grounded suspicion. “No one can see what is in other peoples belly.”  Therefore no one can know if a person is NOT a witch. Once the accusation is there, only exile can be the result. No one puts hopes into police or judges, who won’t interfere with “family matters”. Some also fear their children to be killed by poison or sorcery, if they don’t give in to the accusation and leave home.

More than one third of the outcasts in Gushiegu suffered physical violence. Most had been attacked with whips made from fan-belts or thorns, cutlasses, sticks, knifes. One woman was tortured with a needle driven slowly into her finger. Others were scared away or left for good after an accusation.

Diese Frau wurde mit einer Machete auf den Kopf und in die Arme geschlagen.
This woman was struck with a cutlass on her head and showed us the scar.
Die Anführerin des Gushiegu Camp hatte einst Geld verliehen. Als sie ihr Geld zurückverlangte, beschuldigte der Schuldner sie der Hexerei. Ein Lynchmob schlug zu, mit knapper Not konnte sie ihr Leben retten.
The “Magazia” – a traditional female leader – was once prosperous and even lended money. When claimed her arrears, she was accused by the debtor. A mob started lynching her and she was almost dead when a relative rescued her.
In Gushiegu sind die Frauen frei, ihre Anklage abzulehnen und gegen das System der Hexenjagden aufzubegehren. In anderen Asylen gibt es Schreinpriester, die auf einem dauernden Geständnis beharren.
In Gushiegu the women are free to talk. This helps them to question their accusation and the system of  witchcraft-beliefs as a whole. Gushiegu can be counted as one of the free sanctuaries. Other camps are rather Ghettoes, put under the rule of a traditional chief or priest who demands exorcisms and confessions. Under this force, some women in these Ghettoes finally give in and accept an identity of being a “witch”. 
Insbesondere die Ältesten Frauen lehnen die Hexereivorstellungen ab, wenngleich manche trotzdem an die Zauberei der Männer glauben.
It is mostly the oldest women who refuse witchcraft beliefs. This tough old lady said, it is “all lies”, women don’t have special powers, men might have, as they perform rituals, but women have nothing at all.

Water!

Water is the most important issue in Gushiegu Camp. We aim at applying for a borehole but don’t put high hopes into an unlikely success. It is quicker to get canisters and wheelbarrows to improve transport from a nearby  borehole – so far mostly out of reach for the weaker and elderly women.  A small budget will enable those women to buy water there – 10 Litres are 10 Pence.  More nearby is a waterhole prone to water-borne diseases like river-blindness and parasites.

Am Ende der Trockenzeit heißt es selbst nach den ersten Regenfällen noch: Warten auf das Rinnsal am Wasserloch
At the end of dry season women queue up to wait for the trickle to fill up.
Kaum Wasser ist übrig...
Almost no water was left in May 2011.
Gerade die Schwächsten und Ärmsten müssen mit dem Wasserloch vorlieb nehmen oder andere bitten, ihnen etwas mitzubringen. Das erdige Wasser dient als Trinkwasser und kann hier Flussblindheit und andere Keime unter anderem von Wildtieren und Ziegen enthalten.
The weaker and poorest have to drink this water from the waterhole or beg others to carry clear water from town. The two women mention diarrhea as common.
In der Regenzeit ist hier ein Fluss, den die Frauen durchwaten müssen, um zur Stadt zu gelangen.
A river seperates the camp from town in rain-season. Animals can’t cross then – which is good for vegetables – but women have to swim to reach town.
Zweimal wurde hier eine Brücke weggeschwemmt. Zu Beginn der Regenzeit bilden sich schon erste Pfützen, später ist dieser Weg meterhoch unter Wasser.
Two times the bridge was washed away by a flood. At the beginning of rain season first puddles develop, later on this path is completely inundated.
In Ghanas Städten finden sich sehr häufig solche Brauchwassersickerrinnen. Plastikmüll, Altöl und Batterien sind regelmäßige Begleiter.
In Ghanas Cities such pictures are common. Plastic waste, used oil and batteries can be found everywhere. Sadly Plasticbags have replaced Banana-leaves entirely and are now blocking gutters everywhere in Ghana, causing diseases and smell. Nonetheless: In general grey water is far more clean than western grey water, contaminated with chemicals of all kind. In Ghana grey water mostly consists of suds and can easily be used to water trees. We would like to use grey water in the sanctuaries to water Pawpaw-Trees and Passion-Fruits. The major problem is roaming goats.