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Widows and Witch persecution in Africa

Feature Article Widows and Witch persecution in Africa
JUN 23, 2022 LISTEN

As the world marks International Widows Day 2022, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches draws the attention of the public to the plight of widows, who are accused and persecuted for witchcraft. Witchcraft accusations have a female face in Africa. The accused are predominantly elderly women or widows. Witchcraft accusers usually target persons in weak socio-political positions, and widows populate this segment of the society. When women lose their husbands, they become vulnerable and prone to being accused and persecuted for witchcraft. There have been cases where widows have been accused and subsequently attacked and killed in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia, etc.

Widows are likely to suffer witchcraft accusations, and witch persecution because they are often seen as financial dependents, unresourceful and unproductive especially when they are elderly. This is the reason why the theme of this year's International Widows Day, “Sustainable Solutions for Widows Financial Independence”, is quite relevant.

When women lose their husbands, their financial position weakens, and their income diminishes. In many cases, witchcraft accusation provides a pretext to deny widows' family inheritance, and dispossess them of the land and other estates. Widows become vulnerable. They are considered an economic burden to the children and other relatives. In a weak financial position, widows are unable to defend themselves and resist witchcraft accusations and witch persecution.

AfAW urges African governments to take urgent steps to empower widows, ensure their full human rights, and provide them pensions and social protection. Government should address socioeconomic conditions that make women, and widows prone to witchcraft accusations and witch persecutions.

Leo Igwe is the director of the Advocacy for Alleged Witches...

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