Kenwilliams Mhango, Country Director for the African Network for the Protection and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)-Malawi Chapter, says Malawi is making headway in fighting against child rights violations perpetuated by people who accuse children of practicing witchcraft.
Mhango said baseline research ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter conducted some three years go in the Southern Malawi district of Machinga and Northern region district of Karonga revealed that witchcraft among children was affecting their class performance.
The ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter head also said witchcraft accusations were affecting children psychologically, in many cases leading into declining confidence levels and school performance as such children begin to feel inferior.
The recipient of the 2010 Human Rights Consultative Committee's (HRCC) Human Rights Defender accolade said no country could develop through superstitions.
"In fact, witchcraft accusations affect children for life, making them less productive in national development. For example, we recently had a case in Bangwe (a township in Blantyre, Malawi's commercial city) where a 12 year-old boy committed suicide a month ago,,ostensibly because he was being accused of practicing witchcraft," said Mhango.
He, however, said such cases have since dwindled, and atributed this success to his organisation's untiring efforts in fighting for the rights of Malawian children.
"We will continue to defend human and, specifically, child rights. It is the only way Malawi can develop," he added.
Said Mango: "Interestingly,, we are now seeing many well-wishers coming forward to help. In the past, most Westerners did not understand the issue of witchcraft, and treated it as a petty issue. How can it be an irrelevant issue when children are sleeping in class because of failure to sleep the previous night, as they were on night errands? How can this be a small issue when children are committing suicide."
He asked for more man-power, technical and financial help as most of witchcraft issues take place in rural areas. He said ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter wants to launch a big campaign on the same.
Malawi has just freed the oldest jail-serving woman on accusations of witchcraft. This happened last week.
The Association for Secular Humanists have been in the forefront fighting for people imprisoned on accusations of practicing witchcraft.
The Association's Executive Director, George Thindwa, ,maintains that witchcraft does not exist, and has challenged Malawian witches to bewitch him.
"I am offering K500,000 to anyone who may bewitch me; so long as I don't die. Those people will need to come forward and avail themselves to journalists so that there are witnesses that, indeed, they are the ones who have bewitched me and not natural causes," said Thindwa.
For more information about ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter's work and efforts in dealing with the issue of witchcraft, human and child trafficking, and general human rights issues in Malawi, please contact 'Sir' Kenwilliams Mhango, ANPPCAN Country Director for Malawi, on (+265) 888 573 595
N.B. Mr. Mhango adds that ANPPCAN-Malawi Chapter is also advocating for Minority Rights.
We treat the issue of minority rights seriously. In fact, minority rights are human rights. Malawi has an obligation to honour them, says Kenwilliams Mhango." says Mhango.
Mhango is the first President of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU).
"During my time, when the one party regime was suppressing women's rights, I advocated for their right o wear trousers. Even the Malawi Police Force (now Service); they used to put on shorts, instead of trousers, and would suffer a lot during the cold months. I advocated for their rights to wear trousers.
"Now, it is time to fight for minority rights. These people are Malawians, to. I will not relent but fight for minority rights. Malawi should stop violating people's rights in the name of culture,