Stigma

I am not a witch!

WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS SCENES THAT MAY UPSET SOME VIEWERS

Children in their thousands are suffering significant abuse and stigmatisation, or even being killed, due to accusations of witchcraft against them. There are tens of thousands of cases, in many nations worldwide.

‘I’m not a witch’ is a powerful, new short film produced by Congolese film maker, Tshoper Kabambi, designed to promote awareness of the problem. Shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this film is part of a media strategy to engage communities, churches, civic organisations and other stakeholders, with the aim of protecting children from child witchcraft accusations and the associated abuse.

The film features street-living children in Kinshasa that have been affected by the issue of child witchcraft accusations. Using their voices, the film introduces the issue of child witchcraft accusation and the impact it has had on children living on the street. The film includes a small dramatised scenario based on a real-life stories. It also features a pastor speaking about how he previously accused children of being witches and his recognition of the damage it has done to the lives of children and their families.

Child witch accusation is a complex issue. Alongside the film are related materials for radio and downloadable audio podcasts for churches that will further engage people and raise awareness of this complex social problem.  The film and materials recognise that there are differing beliefs on this issue and challenges these from a credible position, enabling misconceptions to be challenged, and highlighting the stigma, discrimination and trauma experienced by children.

These resources were commissioned by Feba in response to requests from street living children and survivors of witchcraft accusations, who wanted to talk about this issue and tell their stories in their own words. HCR Associate, Stephanie Mooney, is active in facilitating this work and encouraging the use of these different resources across the DRC and other countries, to challenge harmful cultural practices and to stop children being abused.

HCR is part of the Stop the Child Witch Accusations steering group (SCWA), a coalition of individuals and agencies responding to the reality of children experiencing serious harm or the threat of harm due to accusations of witchcraft or belief in malevolent spiritual influence.

For more information about this issue and helpful resources please see: https://stop-cwa.org

If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.

In DRC (Kinshasa and Goma): Dial 117

In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) 

 

 

 

 

 

Stigma – a personal perspective!

Day 12 of #16DaysofActivism

By Shilpa Shinde

Let’s face it, India doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to valuing women! We rank 174th out of 189 on the gender inequality index.  As the leader of a small NGO I can tell you, it’s a man’s world and I have to work very hard to make my voice heard!  But the issue that has been bothering me most lately is the issue of stigma and particularly how women are affected by it.  

Take my close friend Anugrah*.  She got pregnant before marriage and was unaware that she had been carrying a child for 3 months.  She admits she was very naïve and not aware of much in those days but she was very afraid that her parents and her community would reject her.  

After she and her boyfriend discovered that Anugrah was pregnant, he secretly gave her a drug which he had been told would induce an abortion.  The effect however was to make her very ill, which raised the suspicion of her family, who eventually found out.  Anugrah and her boyfriend’s family then entered discussions and she was put under great pressure, particularly by his family, to abort the baby.  Augrah felt compelled to go through with the abortion, with the promise from her boyfriend’s family that they could get married soon afterwards.  Sadly, not only did they not keep their promise or help her through the procedure, which made her very ill, but they rejected her. They seemed more concerned for their image in society and the church.  

Anugrah was blamed for not ‘not keeping her purity’, while the son was exonerated from any blame, stigma or shame. She has endured rejection and shame from her church and community and even been kicked out of her youth group.  Many of her friends rejected her.   

Thankfully the story doesn’t end there.  Anugrah is now one of our key workers, helping our charity, Seva, serve poor and marginalised indigenous or Adivasi communities in our state.  She has amazing empathy, especially with girls and women, who suffer greatly.  And they love her… they know she feels their pain. 

Seva is a key HCR-partner in India, using a community-centred media approach to bring about holistic transformation among tribal communities (see http://www.h-c-r.org/news/2018/9/12/village-gets-a-new-voice)

*Not her real name

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