Imagine life in a remote town comprised entirely of “witches.” The BBC explains:
When misfortune hits a village, there is a tendency in some countries to suspect a “witch” of casting a spell. In Ghana, outspoken or eccentric women may also be accused of witchcraft – and forced to live out their days together in witch camps.
The camps are said to have come into existence more than 100 years ago, when village chiefs decided to establish isolated safe areas for the women. They survive by collecting firewood, selling little bags of peanuts or working in nearby farms.
“The camps are a dramatic manifestation of the status of women in Ghana,” says Professor Dzodzi Tsikata of the University of Ghana. “Older women become a target because they are no longer useful to society.”
Women who do not conform to society’s expectations also fall victim to the accusations of witchcraft, according to Lamnatu Adam of the women’s rights group Songtaba. “Women are expected to be submissive so once you start to be outspoken in your views or even successful in your trade, people assume you must be possessed.”
The Ghanaian government sees the camps as a stain on the reputation of one of the most progressive democratic and economically vibrant nations in Africa, and said last year it would move quickly to disband them. But sending the women back to their home villages now would be fraught with danger.
“We have to do a lot of work with their communities so that they are able to return without being lynched or subjected to reaccusation, for example if a cow jumps over a fence and knocks down something,” says Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, ActionAid’s country director in Ghana. “We are going to have to disabuse people’s minds and that takes a long time.”