Home Uncategorized NGOs, Activist Call For Psychosocial Support For Branded Witches In Nigeria

NGOs, Activist Call For Psychosocial Support For Branded Witches In Nigeria

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 The Exhibition

By Ita Williams, Calabar 

A Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and a  Documentary Photographer, Etinosa Yyvonne have called for psychosocial support for children, women and the elderly accused of witchcraft. 

The call was made on Thursday at the National Museum, Old Residency, Calabar during an exhibition by Yyvonne in collaboration with Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI) and  National Geographic Explorer (NGE) aimed at promoting mental health awareness for people accused of witchcraft. 

The awareness started in Akwa Ibom and Cross River State as pilot states to open up the campaigns in the country. 

The call for psychosocial support for branded witches focuses on a holistic approach to address their needs and challenges and by prioritizing their mental well-being, they said the hope is to create a society that is inclusive, compassionate, and empathetic towards all its members, regardless of the false accusations placed upon them.

Yyvonne in her speech, highlighted the devastating consequences that these accusations can have on the psychological well-being of the accused, including feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation. 

She urged the society to recognize the importance of providing psycho-social support to these individuals, emphasizing that mental health services are just as vital as physical health services.

Yyvonne also called for a change in societal attitudes towards witchcraft accusations, stressing the need to challenge harmful beliefs and stigmas associated with this practice asserting that “education and awareness are necessary to address the root causes of these accusations and prevent further harm to innocent individuals”.

A cross section of participants at the exhibition in Calabar.

She further proposed a multi-faceted approach to addressing this issue and this approach includes “the establishment of counseling and therapy services specifically tailored to the needs of survivors, as well as the implementation of educational programs aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding witchcraft”.

The activist advocated for community engagement and support, encouraging community leaders and members to actively work towards creating an inclusive and accepting environment for survivors. By amplifying their voices and advocating for their rights, she hopes to create lasting change and eradicate the stigma associated with witchcraft accusations.

Yyvonne in an interview said, “government should take the responsibility to enforce the law to curb the menace in the society, they should also do so through education, raise awareness to put an end to this practice”

Also speaking, Barr. James Ibor, the Co-founder of BRCI, said, “we collaborated with the National Geographic Explorer for this project called, ‘It Is All In My Head’ and just as onion has layers it has started unfolding. I have seen the onion effect,and I saw people weeping after going through the pictures. A lot of victims have not gotten justice, we will work to ensure those victims got justice”. 

He emphasized the urgent need for psychosocial support services to be provided to these branded witches and stressed that beyond just advocating for the rights and protection of the victims, it is essential to address the mental and emotional trauma they experience.

Ibor called for a robust public awareness campaign to challenge the deeply ingrained cultural beliefs that perpetuate witchcraft accusations and stigmatization. 

In all, the groups stressed the need for education and sensitization programmes to debunk myths and misconceptions associated with witchcraft and promote empathy and understanding.

The exhibition served as a platform to raise public awareness about the plight of branded witches and garnered support for their cause. It also aimed to spark conversations and promote dialogue on strategies to address this human rights issue.

It showcased powerful photographs captured by Yyvonne, through her Photographic project called, “It Is All In My Head” highlighting the harrowing experiences faced by individuals branded as witches in different communities across Nigeria. These individuals, especially children, women, and the elderly, often endure immense suffering including physical abuse, abandonment, and social exclusion.

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