The age-old traditional practice of killing children born with deformities came to an end on Saturday in seven communities in the Kasena-Nankana West and East districts in the Upper East Region.
Making a proclamation to end the practice at a grand durbar at Sirigu, the communities, led by their chiefs, resolved to hand over those who might continue with the tradition to the police to face the law.
The communities are Kandiga, Manyoro, Mirigu, Nabango, Natugnia, Sirigu and Yua.
The decision to end the practice was the result of 12 years of public education and advocacy, led by Afrikids Ghana, a child rights non-governmental organisation in Bolgatanga.
Until recently, children born with disabilities or deformities in those communities were regarded as spirit children or outcasts.
They were, therefore, killed by people described as “concoction men” who administered poisonous herbs to the babies, otherwise the babies could bring calamities on their families.
At a grand durbar of the chiefs and people of the seven communities at Sirigu, the Paramount Chief of Kandiga, Naba Henry Amenga-Etego, who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers, said for many years many innocent children had become victims of that dehumanising practice.
“We have lived with this practice for many years but it is a joy that we did not remain in this belief but did all we could to bring an end to it. No child should suffer any form of abuse as a result of whatever circumstances he or she is born with.
“The rights of all children should be respected by all. Children who, in one way or another, are already living with deformities should be given the needed care and love by their parents and other people who deal with them.
“We will allow the law to deal with anybody who still goes ahead to engage in the practice,” Naba Amenga-Etego declared.
As part of efforts to stop the practice, the “concoction men” have been mobilised to form an association to provide an avenue for them to be educated and trained on the need to protect the rights of children born with deformities.
Also, Afrikids has formed 60 child rights clubs in 60 schools in the project area to contribute to the education of community members on the need to stop the practice.
Additionally, over 400 women have been empowered through micro-financing and awareness raising activities, while regular community activities are held to celebrate and promote child rights.
These activities include annual football tournaments and festivals involving assembly men and women, as well as traditional leaders.
The Director of Afrikids Ghana, Mr Nicholas Kumah, said what culminated in the bold declaration to end the practice, which was motivated by superstition, began with the realisation of the need to change the local mind set.
He said Afrikids was also involved in the direct rescue and resettlement of the families of over 67 children affected by the spirit-child phenomenon or severe health and disability problems.
“One major achievement is how one child, Paul Apowida, who was accused of being a spirit child and was given infanticide, fought for his life and survived. Today, Apowida is a rifleman in the British Army,” he said.
Mr Kumah said the grand declaration marked the end of advocacy on the spirit-child phenomenon.
“What this means is that if anyone is caught in the act of accusing a child of being a spirit child and administering infanticide to that child, he will be made to face the full rigours of the law,” he said.
Naba Amenga-Etego acknowledged the role of Afrikids, stressing that since the intervention, the people had seen tremendous improvement in the lives of rescued and vulnerable children.
“There are many visible examples of children who were accused but are now living. Some are even in schools or learning some skills. A classic example is Paul Apowida who is in the British Army,” he stressed.
He said for the past four years no child had suffered or been killed in the name of spirit child in any of the communities.
The Chief of Sirigu, Naba Akwara Adumbire, called on the government to, as a matter of priority, assist the communities with educational and health facilities to give pregnant women easy access to ante-natal care to help avert deformities in their children.
He also appealed for the establishment of a special school in the area to provide opportunities for children with disabilities.
The Secretary of the Concoction Men Association (now known as Right to Life Promoters), Mr Cletus Akonzaba, on behalf of his colleagues, thanked Afrikids for the education and training given them.
He pledged that henceforth no child would be killed in the name of tradition, stressing that they would lead the fight to report any perpetrator to the law enforcement agencies.
To further encourage members of the association to move away from the practice, each of them has been placed on micro-finance schemes to access soft credits to undertake livelihood programmes.
Each of them has also received a bicycle, two bags of maize and millet and four ruminants. They have also been signed onto the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The Upper East Regional Minister, Alhaji Limuna Mohammed-Muniru, lauded the chiefs and people of the area for abandoning the practice.
He commended Afrikids Ghana for the intervention and the “concoction men” for fully appreciating the negative effects of the spirit-child phenomenon.
He said the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council looked forward to working with such progressive organisations to do away with all forms of abuse.
Story: Benjamin Xornam Glover
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