Reversing spell of superstition-TheStarMarch18

Date: October 20, 2009
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This article may be used to:
– Raise awareness to the plight of women forced into circumcision
– Raise awareness to the plight of women accused of witchcraft
– Highlight the extent to which patriarchal believes promote notions of male dominance and female subordination
– Draw attention to the low regard placed on female life
– Highlight conflict between traditional and modern beliefs
– As an example of an article that uses reader friendly language
– Protects the rights of the vulnerable
– Highlight women’s contribution to society
– Encourage readers to do their bit to correct societal wrongs

Trainer’s notes:
The article raises awareness to the plight of women forced into circumcision. According to the article 90% of women in countries such as Somalia and Sudan are forcefully circumcised and many of them die due to complications arising from the practice.

Attention is also drawn to the plight of women who are left scarred for life. Circumcision often damages the virginal tissues which are supposed to stretch during child birth, thus making it difficult for women to have normal virginal births .According to the World Health Organisation the failure of virginal muscles lead to the baby being trapped in the virgina causing 20% of still births.Circumsion also puts women at risk of fistula. This is a condition in which a baby becomes trapped in the vargina due to the virginal muscles’ failure to stretch thus putting pressure and crushing the rectum, the bladder and the urethra which leaves the woman unable to control her bowel and bladder movements .This often leaves women reeking of urine and faeces leading them to be shunned by their partners.

The article is commended for explaining this medial condition in a language that ordinary people understand.

What perhaps makes the plight of circumcised women even sadder is the idea behind the process. Women are circumcised to give men ultimate pleasure during intercourse. It is suspected that an uncircumcised woman will be sexually insatiable are left with a ’tissue scar ‘instead of a normal virgina making sexual intercourse unbearably painful for them. The ’tissue scars’ are so difficult to penetrate that even the men who are supposed to prove their virility by breaking the scars open resort to using external objects such as knives and broken bottles causing the women even untold pain.

The subject of circumcision remains a contentious issue, with those who are pro practise arguing that the practise is traditional and cultural and is not in anyway a violation of rights. One the other hand though, those against the practise urge that it is not only a violation of human rights and dignity ,but label it as ‘barbaric ‘ and primitive and even refer to it as genital mutilation.

The article also highlights the degree to which patriarchy regards female life. This is evident in the words of a father who lost a daughter to botched circumcision – ‘it is only a woman who died ‘Why all the fuss.’ Proving beyond any doubt that little if any, regard is placed on female life.

The article also protects the identities of the vulnerable .The identities of the mother and daughter coming from a meeting on the eradication of circumcision is protected. Revealing their identities could have put them in danger from those who are pro practise.

The second part of the article raises awareness the plight of women accused of witchcraft. Most women in Africa find themselves accused of witchcraft merely because they grow into old age ,or because of unexplained illnesses in the family or simply because they have blood shot eyes .A Soweto woman escaped lynching over suspicions of being a witch ,her crime ,she was old and suffered from senile dementia.

Closely linked to this is the gender dynamics of beliefs around witchcraft. It is only women who are accused of this practice while men are not. The reasons why women make fall into these categories can be explained in that in most of Africa women have longer life span than men, they spend a life making fires and by the time they are 50 their eyes are red shot, a sign mistakenly taken to symbolise that one is a witch

The article also highlights conflict between modern and traditional beliefs .Those who believe in traditional believes purport that a person can not die because of diarrhoea while

Attention is drawn to women’s, unnoticed and often unrewarded work. They do the majority of the work, building houses, working the fields and taking care of their husbands.However, at the end of the day they have nothing to show for it, no say, no property, no security, no dignity and no rights whatsoever. One woman states that ‘anything bad is blamed on us’. In short, the article rises that women are treated as beasts of burden.

Though the article is sad ,all is not lost .The article underscores the need to teach communities that diseases are not caused by witchcraft but by ‘germs’ .Moreover ,the article carries a message that even individuals can make a change through embarking on educational campaigns teaching communities to move away from these misconceptions.

Training exercises:
– Organise a debate session throwing pro circumcision groups against anti circumcision groups.
– Ask participants to visit Help Aged, an NGO working with people accused of witchfract, in their areas.
– Invite a someone accused of witchcraft share their experiences with you

Other training resources:

Ask participants to design a witchcraft intervention strategy.



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