Woman from Gambaga

Writings and more

We are working to develop this page as a hub for exploring the issues in the film, and also as a space for you to have your say. Join the debate – use the form at the bottom of the page to add your thoughts, suggest a link or leave a comment.

What makes a woman a witch?

Written by Yaba Badoe for Feminist Africa

“At a time when the social consequences of globalisation are being felt by migrant and indigenous communities throughout the world, it seems pertinent to try and understand what it must be like to be made a scapegoat for social ills: in other words, what it means to be a ‘witch’”…
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Interview with Yaba Badoe

By Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, for the African Women’s Development Fund

“I stumbled on the Witches camp at Gambaga in 1995 when I was working as a stringer for the BBC World Service in Ghana. I was shocked that, not far from where I was born in Tamale, there were refuges for women believed to be witches”…
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Spellbound: Ghana’s witches find sanctuary

Written by Yaba Badoe for New Internationalist, 2005

“Every year in this part of Ghana, hundreds of women endure communal and domestic violence as a result of traditional religious beliefs that demonize women. It’s also assumed that it is in women’s nature to harm others. These beliefs, combined with decades of poor health and educational standards, mean women inhabit a world where it’s believed that nothing – not even illness or death – happens by chance”…
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The Witches of Gambaga – 10 minute version

Part of the Guardian’s Video Witness series

Click to view the special 10-minute version of The Witches of Gambaga, broadcast in November 2010 on the Guardian website as part of their Video Witness series, showing the best online documentaries from the Guardian.
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“… the unacceptable and abusive treatment of women as witches is exposed…”
ABANTU for Development

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9 Comments to Join the conversation

  1. July 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    The Website of the “Witch-hunt Victims Empowerment Project” working at Gushiegu, Nabuli and Kpatinga is now online:

    Please consider a donation at:

    I would be glad to know more about the situation in Gambaga now, as just Gladis Lariba is left and Simon Ngota left to Gushiegu.

  2. Abukari Iddrisu's Gravatar Abukari Iddrisu
    May 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I just watched a short video on youtube about the Gambaga Witch Camp. I think your analysis and conclusion is superficial and naive. The witches in that camp are condemned from various parts and communities in the north of Ghana. Each has their own method of prosecuting and convicting witches. These traditional courts existed long before colonisation. Some of them were so sophisticated that they co-existed with the so-called western legal system. For example, the British allowed the traditional legal system in Dagbon to run in parallel to their own. It is such courts that convict those witches you see in the camp.

    Where were the human rights when millions of Africans were enslaved and forced to work on plantations in the new world. Where were the rights of humans when apartheid relagated South africans to sub humans? where were the human rights when african americans suffered all those brutalities in the US?

    Have you thought about the orphans left behind of the bewitched? The subject is more complicated than just the statement that the “fate of a woman is determined by how a fowl dies”. You, certainly, need more resources and time on this subject.

    • Yaba's Gravatar Yaba
      May 5, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your feedback, Iddrisu. Perhaps you should take time to look at the whole documentary before you dismiss my analysis as superficial and naive. My aim isn’t to discuss whether witchcraft exists or not, but to question a trial by ordeal that condemns a woman to years of exile from her family based on the way a chicken dies. Just because many Africans have been abused and mistreated for generations is no excuse for allowing women, who are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, to be sujected to violent abuse as well. It’s time we treated all men and women – no matter what we believe they’ve done – with respect.

      • June 8, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

        What a joy to find somoene else who thinks this way.

    • July 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Iddrisu, its not about being different or exploited in the past (which Africans had a pretty share in exploiting their fellows either). It’s about universal truth. And witchcraft-accusations can simply not be true because there is no such thing as witchcraft, this is proven by all modern science. Therefore it does not matter if it is a Dagbon court (which it is clearly not, it is shrines and ordeals) who condemns a person as a witch – as long as she is accused of witchcraft you will have to face the scientific reality: That this crime does not exist. If children die in Northern Ghana – and they do – it is mostly their parents who are to blame: For exploiting them, letting them carry heavy loads of water, not feeding them well (as they are “just children”), letting chiefs take money away which was thought for clean water, not doing everything to provide potable water and food. For sure no one is to blame for witchcraft. It is not there. It is a fantasy – that kills people accused of witchcraft.
      And if you ask me further: No god ever talked to humans, no human can influence anything called god, there are no spirits and no magic at all. World is just as it is: A place made hell and heaven at the same time by humans.
      Science is a wonderful thing – if you really WANT to understand something it offers explanation that go far, very, very far beyond the simple accusation stereotype for many womens fate: “I dreamt of you tonight, you hunted me in my dream and caused my headache. I will kill you!”

  3. Amina Mama's Gravatar Amina Mama
    April 11, 2011 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Yaba and I are both in New York for the screening at the 18th African Film Festival, a wonderful event featuring some fascinating new African and diasporan films, and attended by many exciting young filmmakers discussing a range of artistic, political and ethical issues in contemporary cinematography. More details can be found on their website http://www.africanfilmny.org
    The screenings continue tomorrow 11th April and Tuesday 12th April, so if you are in NY come and join the delights of viewing, socializing and meeting the creative community gathered there!

    Yaba and I will be at the screening Monday 11th April @ 8.00pm at the Walter Reade Theatre, the Lincoln Centre.

    • June 8, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      At last! Smonoee who understands! Thanks for posting!

  4. Yaba's Gravatar Yaba
    March 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink


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