Conor Robinson, the young activist who came up with the idea of the Humanist Service Corps, has an article in The Humanist about the first big project to be tackled, the witch camps of Ghana. He details the enormous need in those camps and the horrifying events that bring people to them.
Beginning in 2015, Humanist Service Corps volunteers will support Songtaba and other locally led human rights organizations in the effort to address the causes and consequences of witchcraft accusations in the Northern Region of Ghana. Although 70 percent of Ghanaians believe in witchcraft, it is only in the northern region where women are forcibly and often violently exiled from their communities after being labeled as witches. The accused are usually elderly widows, women who no longer have husbands to protect them and who are ineligible for remarriage because they cannot bear children. Other targets for accusation are women who defy accepted gender norms by being outspoken or accruing independent wealth through business. The accusations also have an impact on the youth of northern Ghana, since children are often sent as caretakers for the accused. It is the only support most families feel they can safely provide to the women, and it is just as much a deprivation for the children as for the alleged witches.
Conditions in the camps for women accused of witchcraft are deplorable. Along with their dependents, they face insufficient access to clean water, food, and healthcare, inadequate housing, and continued abuse. Nonetheless, the existence of these camps is the only reason the women are allowed to flee with their lives when they are accused. In addition to believing in witchcraft, Ghanaians believe that certain areas of land can strip witches of their powers. No such complementary belief exists in Nigeria, Senegal, or the Ivory Coast, where women accused of witchcraft are executed by their communities. Thus, though the women find little comfort in the camps, there is safety in their squalor.
If you want to help and think you’re up to the incredibly difficult job, you can apply to be part of the effort here.