Leslie Carol Botha:No woman should be shunned as a witch in this day and age. Even in the most under-developed nations. But we are all human – and what we fear we stigmatize. Unfortunately, women have born the brunt of that stigma for far too long.
Childbirth Victims Shunned as Witches in Cameroon
By Nakinti Nofuru
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
BAI KUKE, Cameroon (WOMENSENEWS)–Paulina Mosaka, a 73-year-old widow, was peeling plantains to cook for the many grandchildren living with her. Between ages 2 and 15, they played happily outside in the muddy backyard.
Mosaka used her walking stick to inch gingerly to the porch off the kitchen of her dilapidated wooden house in this village in the southwestern part of Cameroon. She sat down gently on the bare earth floor.
At the mention of her late daughter, Rebecca, Mosaka began to cry. Rebecca recently died at age 30 in the hands of a traditional midwife after more than 14 hours of labor with her eighth child.
“Ma pickin, this place wey we shidon so, na for dey wey Rebecca be sleep die body, for down here so, like say yi be be na beef,” she said in Pidgin English.
Her words meant that this porch was the exact spot where Rebecca was laid the day she died, as if she were a dead animal. Overcome by emotion, she summoned her other daughter Penda Mokossa to continue the “bad luck” story.
“They said my sister died of witchcraft because she died in labor,” said Mokossa, 36, who is married with six children. Mokossa blamed her sister’s death on poverty. “She did not attend antenatal clinic even for one day because she did not have money to attend clinic.”
But she said the community attributed her death to “swine witchcraft.”
Among the Oroko ethnic community here, traditional belief holds that swine mystically inhabit the bodies of some women, who are capable of witchcraft and morph into swine at night. When these women become pregnant, they give birth to baby swine in the bushes and risk losing their lives if they try to deliver their babies in the real world.
In line with this belief, women who die during childbirth are at high risk of being shunned as witches and deprived traditional burials.
Mokossa said that after her sister died, the family placed her corpse on a bed, in standard preparation for burial.