In the News

03 October 2012

Older Tanzanian Women Face Allegations of Witchcraft

Abuse of the elderly is one of the challenges associated with population ageing
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An elderly woman works in her banana grove, near Bukoba, Tanzania. Prejudice based on misunderstanding often leads to discrimination and violence against vulnerable women in the country's rural areas.

Photograph: Reinhard Marscha/Alamy

SUKUMALAND -- Nyamizi, a 73-year-old widow from Sukumaland, Tanzania, was returning home from work one night when she was attacked by a man with a machete. He chopped off her hand and slashed her head, knocking her unconscious.

She had earlier received a threatening letter telling her to leave her village. Nyamizi believes it was sent by a neighbour whose child had died, and who was told by a traditional healer that she was responsible for the death using witchcraft.

Nyamizi was unconscious for a day and spent three weeks in hospital. When she left, she was told her case had already been heard in court and that she had lost it. "I didn't get justice because I couldn't pay for it. No one takes action for those who are poor," she said.

Extreme violence and abuse against older women related to witchcraft allegations is common in Sukumaland, according to a recent report published by UNFPA and HelpAge International. The Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Centre said that between 2004 and 2009 more than 2,585 older women were killed in eight regions of the country because of alleged witchcraft.

Read the full story by Marishka Van Steenbergen in the Guardian