On Tuesday 7 August 2018, in commemoration of South Africa’s National Women’s Day and as part of the Centre for Human Rights (the Centre’s) year-long campaign on the rights of older women in Africa, the Women’s Rights unit in collaboration with the Department of Library Services, University of Pretoria organised the screening of the award winning documentary ’The Witches of Gambaga’ by Yaba Badoe.
The event commenced with welcoming addresses from Elsabe Olivier from the University’s library services and Ade Johnson from the Women’s Rights Unit. In welcoming participants to the screening, Ade shared with participants the yearlong campaign on the rights of older women currently run by the Centre. The significance of such a campaign was underscored considering that 5% of the African population consists of older persons. The increased vulnerabilities of older women to violence and discrimination as a result of the combined effects of ageism and sexism was stressed. Participants were urged to join the Centre’s #AgewithRights campaign on all social media networks. Thereafter, an opening address was given by Prof M. Hansungule who spoke about the witchcraft belief in Africa. It was interesting to see how many participants signified their belief in witchcraft when he raised the question. He underscored the limitations of the law and the police when it comes to such deeply rooted African beliefs. He stressed the need for greater awareness and education which is what he believed the documentary screening represented.
'The Witches of Gambaga' is the extraordinary story of a community of women condemned to live as witches in Northern Ghana. It depicts women’s painful experiences, abusive treatment as well as violations of their rights when they are tagged as witches. After the screening, participants reflected on the documentary particularly on the plight of older women in Africa. It was particularly worrying to see how the guilt and sentencing of these older women to witchcraft was simply determined by how a chicken dies. The event ended with a greater realisation that the 'The Witches of Gambaga' is a call to action to end all forms of violence against women particularly older women and continue to lobby for the realisation of the human rights of older women in the African continent.