It is a centuries old tradition to attribute witchcraft, corruption, the cause of disasters, evils, ill-fate and black magic all to women. In ancient times, baby girls were buried alive for they brought misfortune on the household. That tradition continues today, in a modern way ofcourse. Sex-selective abortions are common in various developing countries.
So any news that becomes a headline merely on these basis barely shocks people. ‘Its in their cultural traditions’ is the simple explanation provided for any news in where the girl or a woman is the victim.
But now the centuries old tradition have found a new victim to unleash its ugliness and has crossed all the boundaries of humanity and morals for this victim is the most vulnerable population of all – children.
In Southeast Nigeria, children are being accused of witchcraft and are seen as the cause of bringing poverty, terrible misfortune and deaths to those near them. Millions of children are tortured, drowned in rivers or simply thrown out of the house because they are thought to bring ill-fate to their loved ones. Children, who have no idea about the world itself, are stigmatized of a situation in which they have no role in whatsoever.
Indeed, poverty is cruel for it spares no one, not even children.
Childhood, a phase of bursting energy, vibrant dreams, innocence exploring the new world, brings joy and happiness in everyone’s lives. Admit it! somewhere in time even you have smiled by just looking at a child either doing something or simply smiling at you. Whenever one sees a child smiling or playing, one smiles as well forgetting all the day’s bad breaks and tensions. A child through innocence touches and changes the lives of many. Children show new perspective on life through simple and unimaginable ways. Even adults learn a thing or two from children.
There is a reason films with children as their main audience are successful and adults of all ages enjoy such films. Perhaps one primary and great example of this is the ‘Harry Potter’ book series by J.K Rowling that touched all generations around the world. The books became a major hit globally because every individual could relate to the characters and their situations.
But, when a child is branded as a ‘witch’, all the innocent dreams and energy are snatched away in an instant, killing the child altogether. How will the child live when it is stigmatized of witchcraft and of causing pain to loved ones? How will the child survive when his/her own parents, the very people who brought him/her in the world, throw them out of the house for the sake of traditions that has no reality to it?
How, under such conditions, is a child meant to survive?
When children suffer from torture, anger and hatred of people, the world ceases to exist for them. There is no reason for such children to survive, let alone live, for those very people who should be their protectors and their shields turn out to be their worst enemies. There is no reason for children of such stigmatization to become good, responsible citizens of their society and their country when the nation itself is the culprit.
Centuries old traditions are nothing but a recipe of disaster. Even though, in the 21st century, when education has changed the perspectives of many, such traditions continue their strong hold over various societies and nations in various disguises. The witchcraft phenomenon is not limited to Nigeria alone. It is taking place in other nations, but, in a subtle manner that doesn’t stirs much hype or media attention.
Such traditions are now swallowing the lives of innocent children. The stigmatization is bound to leave its scars deeply on the victims physically and psychologically for good. All their lives, various questions will lurk in their minds – why them? why? Unfortunately, there is no answer that can quell such questions and bring peace in their world and lives.
In a world where no country is safe from terrorism, such practices could be the very cause of breeding a new generation of terror that knows no emotions and humanity.
Women have been and continue to fight against the old traditions. In this fight, many have lost their lives, while some carry on the torch.
But how should the children fight, who for no fault of theirs were born in a part of the world that knows nothing but corruption, poverty and instability?
The UN Millennium Development Goals, which seeks to end such discrimination against children, in the face of such crisis, seems to have had no impact on countries anywhere. It wouldn’t be surprising if the goals are missed for simply making a declaration and asking for implementation in countries does not ensure success in any area of any kind. For such children, the Declaration is nothing but fake promises by the global world.
One thing is for certain. If centuries old traditions are to be done away with and for good, it needs a united front from all to break the vicious cycle. Until we get up ourselves and fight, we simply can’t win the war.