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Nigeria: "Ime", 8, accused of being a witch

© UNICEF/Nigeria/2009/Njoku
"Ime" reclining on a pillar as she tells her story.

On November 20th, we celebrate anniversary of the Convention on the rights of the child. This portrait is part of a series that shows progress and challenges in advancing children’s rights in a region where some of the lowest human development indicators in the world are found.

Abuja, Nigeria, 17 November 2009 - "Ime" is eight years old. Her stepmother branded her a witch, accusing her of being responsible for her stepbrother’s frequent illness.

These cases are all too common in Akwa Ibom, southern Nigeria, where children accused of being witches are subjected to severe beatings and torture, and abandoned by their families. 

Even though she was severely beaten and punished, "Ime" refused to confess to witchcraft.

After she was thrown out of the family home, "Ime" roamed the streets, scavenging for food in trash bins.

A passerby brought her to a UNICEF supported rehabilitation centre where she is now receiving psychosocial support and care.

"Ime" says she hopes to be a lawyer someday and is looking forward to sending to prison all those who branded her a witch, especially the "prophet", the churchman who preached the existence—and "exorcism"—of child witches.

In the last two years, UNICEF has worked with the state and other child rights advocates to ensure that these children are protected against all forms of abuse arising from this phenomenon.

Today, the Child Rights Law has been passed in the state, providing the legal environment to tackle the problem.

Although the problem persists, some perpetrators of this crime have been prosecuted and the rehabilitation centre is currently providing care, schooling and support to these children; several of whom have been reunited with their families.






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