The Witches’ Camp at Kpatinga provides sanctuary for women who have been forced to flee their homes because of accusations of witchcraft. World Vision Ghana provides support for these women in an effort to help them improve their lot.
Accompanied by my wife Yaa, my daughter Baaba and my nephew Harry, we departed Kumasi at six in the morning and arrived at the bus stop in Tamale mid-afternoon. Our driver met us and, after we purchased some supplies, he drove us for three hours over rutted bumpy dirt roads, past miles and miles of acacia scrub rendered a verdant green by the recent rains, until we arrived at a rest house in Gushiegu where we had arranged to spend the night. We fell asleep to the sound of frogs chorusing.
The next morning we spent another hour traversing more rutted bumpy dirt roads before arriving in the village square of Kpatinga. There we were met by Hafez, a local teacher who had agreed to be our guide and interpreter. We journeyed to the Witches’ Camp located at the outskirts of the village, and Hafez introduced us to Musa, the village elder entrusted with the welfare of the inhabitants of the Witches’ Camp.
Musa and Hafez
Forty-four individuals live here, mostly women along with a few small children. Typically, the women who have sought refuge here have to remain here for the rest of their lives, although any children who accompany them are free to go once they reach adulthood.
Some of the younger women hire out their labor at the local village for a pittance. Some tend vegetable gardens and keep chickens and guinea fowl.
We saw sheep and goats aplenty, but Hafez told us that they belong to the residents of the village proper, not the Witches’ Camp.
When asked how they ended up here, these women are remarkably laconic about their experiences. No high drama here. One after another told us the same sad story: A family member died. I was accused of witchcraft. I had to flee my village. Shrug.
Some of these women were divorced or widowed when this happened. Others had husbands, but their husbands apparently were unable to do anything to protect them.
“We can’t sleep at night,” one of the women told us. “All we can see is the faces of our children.”
World Vision Ghana has provided these women with food and mattresses and has also built latrines as well as simple but sturdy dwellings for them to replace the mud huts which had an annoying habitat of washing away in a heavy rain.
World Vision also built a small church and a small school for the children.
Just as important, World Vision has worked hard to help overcome the isolation these women face. They built a cornmill and a water pump for all to use, thereby enticing the residents of Kpatinga to come by and see for themselves that the dwellers here are not so scary after all. (The cornmill is currently in need of repairs, the water pump is running just fine).
The plan worked. The children in the Witches’ Camp now attend school in the village with all the other local children. World Vision plans to take this one step farther and build a magnet school at the Witches’ Camp to attract the children of Kpatinga proper.
Near the end of our visit we presented the ladies with some small tokens of our appreciation for their hospitality: bread, biscuits, soap, and a small cash honorarium. They thanked us warmly.
Finally we spoke with Zhefal, a young girl living with her mother at the Witches’ Camp who is now in her second year of school. When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she smiled and without a moment’s hesitation replied, “A teacher.”
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All photos by author