Ghana: Superstition Forces Women to Seek Shelter from Violence in "Witch Camps"
Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:35 AM

Women accused of witchcraft in Ghana face high levels of violence and discrimination, including death, beatings, torture, and the loss of kin and community. Once accused, these women have no legal or other means to fight the charge of witchcraft, leading many to flee to the world’s only “witch camps” for sanctuary. There are six known witch camps in Ghana, located within local villages, where accused witches are segregated and offered protection from persecution. Once accepted into a camp, the women rarely return home due to fears of continued violence and persecution.

The persistence of witchcraft allegations in Ghana highlights a lesser-known form of discrimination against women, perpetuated by entrenched female inequality and poverty. Widows represented over 70% of the women in one of the witch camps, while others reportedly had achieved economic success or challenged established cultural and gender norms, and were later accused of witchcraft.  

The witch camps are described as places where women who have lost everything can gain back some sense of peace and security and build new relationships with other refugees. However, poverty and a lack of essential services are common in the camps, and shelters are rudimentary. NGOs in Ghana have been working with witch camps to create opportunities for residents to earn income, but these programs mostly rely on physical labor and many women are still forced to beg for money or food. Ghana’s First Lady recently secured land to build a new witch camp that includes a clinic, school, and market, but the project has no funding. Education, equality and economic opportunities for women and girls in Ghana are critical to combatting the stigma of witchcraft.   

Compiled from: Murray, Jacqueline & Wallace, Lauren, In Africa, Accusations of Witchcraft Still a Reality for Many Women, The Globe and Mail (November 25, 2013); Blondé, Paul and Küntzle, Julia, The Unhappy Fate of Ghanaian Witches, Vice (October 22, 2013).