The campaign called “Children are not witches! Don’t accomplice violence!” is part of our project for children in prison and police custody and fighting harmful practices, violence, exclusion and trafficking of children that we carry out in the Central region and the region of Kara in Togo with our local partner organisation CREUSET.
In areas, where the individual submits himself to the community, every unusual physical appearance or trait is regarded as dangerous, i.e. if a child has a disability or shows a different, conspicuous behaviour, is hyperactive or particularly gifted. Special abilities, that are not considered to be “normal” are usually not tolerated especially in rural areas of Togo, but seen as possessing witchcraft that ought to be exorcised.
These children may be excluded from their community and/or severely mistreated. Many children, particularly in rural areas, are exposed to cruel rituals that aim at chasing away the demons. Affected children are marked for life bearing physical and psychological disabilities and being socially excluded. In worst cases, children get mutilated or even killed. The number of unreported cases is high, and police often refuses to intervene, as these cultural acts are a taboo subject in public discourse and the fear of supernatural powers is widespread.
Even though there are multiple civil society organisations, few are willing to get involved with this issue. One reason might be the taboo-character, another one the deep cultural rootedness of beliefs in witchcraft.
Affected children, however need urgent medical, legal, psychological and psycho-social assistance. They further have a right to participate in educative, pre-professional, sports and leisure activities, a right to participation in community life as well as to future perspectives.
The project aims at raising awareness to this issue in order to break the taboo and spread conciousness about the rights and the interests of affected children. Thereby, excesses against children are publicly denounced and a protective environment for children is created. Particularly children’s right to life, physical well-being and social inclusion are defended by preventive actions, rehabilitating and reintegrating children. Political, legal and local authorities are strongly integrated in this process to spread the word amoung their groups and communities and accompany affected children adequately.
The children’s refuge KANDYAA (“protector”) in Sokodé, Togo offers shelter to children in distress, i.e. children living in the streets, children exposed to discrimination or to violence, mistreatment, neglect, human trafficking, exploitation etc. The center Kandyaa offers protection and shelter, as well as medical treatment, physical and psycho-social support and classes of basic education. Children there participate in educative, cultural, sports and agro-pastoral activities that help them cope with their experiences and train their social and professional abilities.
The children and their families are prepared for the social and educational or professional reintegration of the children. If necessary, they receive material support for school attendance, an apprenticeship or starting an income-generating activity in order to be more independent. Subsequent visits in the families and schools help to reassure a positive and lasting reintegration.
Many of the children rehabilitated in the center and later integrated in their own or a foster family, are very intelligent and show school performances above average.
State and civil society agents (members of police, judiciary, social service, civil society organizations, child rights activists, the media, religious and traditional leaders etc.) are informed and trained in order to assure an adequate rehabilitation of children accused of witchcraft and the prosecution of offenders as well as the sensitization of families and communities.
Cover picture: Participants of the international seminar 2015 in Sokodé on the situation and the needs of children accused of witchcraft. Among them were representatives of civil society organisations and networks, governmental social services, police departments, lawyers, congregations, traditional and religious authorities, affected children as well as traditional healers.
No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Art. 37 UN-CRC. © CREUSET
Kinderrechte Afrika e. V.
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