Africa's Witch Children

Conflict and Resolution

 

7 April 2011 | ‘Einsteins’, Leiden | 19 aanwezigen

 

The WDO invited Gary Foxcroft and Erwin van de Meer to discuss the problems concerning Witch Children in Nigeria and Malawi. Gary Foxcroft is the co-founder of the NGO Stepping Stones. He also made the documentary 'Saving Africa's witch children'. Several scenes of the film were shown to visualize the problems in Nigeria's Niger delta.

 

This is a part from the film shown.

 

This film is the sequel reviewing the problems illustrated in the original film.

 

Foxcroft then told us of his experiences during his work in Nigeria. Van der Meer talked about the research he has done in Malawi where children are also being accused of being witches. He works together with Peter Stael, founder of the NGO Across Outreach in Malawi. Their accounts made a grand impact on the audience, sensable by the reactions and expressions in the room.

 

After everyone let the impressive and heavy information sink down in a short break, there was time to ask questions to our guests and discuss the problems concerning 'Child Witches'. For example the differences of the problems in Malawi and Nigeria, the impact of the hybrid religion of Pentecostal Churches and the "traditional" or "old", witchcraft, and the shift from women being targeted as witches, to elderly, to children. The "Weaker" members of communities who can't provide for themselves and need to be "taken care of" are targeted most. Since in these regions providing for your family is difficult, it resulted in accusing the "weak" as witches. 

 

Eric Hahonou, co-autor of the documentary 'Yesterday's Slaves. Democracy and Ethnicity', was present in the audience. He told us of his experiences in Benin, where children were also negatively stigmatized with all the consequences that presents. After they had been accused of witchcraft and then expelled from their communities, they were taken in by NGO's and taught skills to decently provide for their own standard of living. When they later on returned to their villages, the stigma reversed. Instead of accusing for example "cry-babies", bed-wetters, albino children, twins or other "beside the norm" children, of being witches, these children were seen as a sort of good luck charm. 

 

Foxcroft and Van der Meer explicitly mentioned that research is necessary to evaluate and map out these problems in order to work to solutions in the future. The scale of these problems and the impact on the people, especially the children, but also parents and entire communities is huge. I cannot hereby describe these problems in an manner they deserve. At least the evening brought them under our attention. Foxcroft and Van der Meer hope research and active commitment to the solution of these problems will result in making "a negative into a positive", like the before mentioned account from Benin.

 

Across Outreach and Stepping Stones Nigeria want to thank everyone present that evening. Everyone motivated to solve the problems concerning "Child Witches" can contact them via their websites.