In Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), COOPI provides shelter and education to more than 100 young girls accused of being witches by local superstitions. These girls, some as young as six years old, have been forced out of their homes and shunned by their communities. Any time a family tragedy occurs, such as the death of a family member, a severe illness or a financial loss, it’s common for ignorance and superstition to blame a young girl, holding her responsible as an “evil witch”. The reason is often to be found in the complex socio-economic and cultural environment of deprivation in which many families are forced to live.
These girls are totally shunned from their families and communities, and denied their right to study, play or just grow up as normal individuals. As modern-day Cinderellas, they’re confined to isolation by prejudice, serving as servants for other families.
Thanks to the solidarity of many people around the world, COOPI established a special center in Bukavu named “Ek’Abana”, run by Sister Natalina Isella. The center offers shelter, psychological support, school support and vocational training, family mediation and reconciliation, with the goal of preparing the family and the girl for a positive reintegration, allowing these girls to return to their families and communities.
The center currently houses 42 girls, while another 70 have already been successfully reintegrated into their families.