Safeguarding children s rights initiative witchcraft and spirit possession evaluation findings
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Safeguarding Children’s Rights Initiative: Witchcraft and Spirit Possession Evaluation Findings. Centre for Social Work Research. Overview: The initiative and the evaluation. Aims to develop and strengthen community-based preventive activities

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Safeguarding children s rights initiative witchcraft and spirit possession evaluation findings

Safeguarding Children’s Rights Initiative: Witchcraft and Spirit Possession Evaluation Findings

Centre for Social Work Research


Overview the initiative and the evaluation
Overview: The initiative and the evaluation Spirit Possession

  • Aims

  • to develop and strengthen community-based preventive activities

  • to protect the rights and to ensure the safety of African children living in London,

  • with a particular focus on tackling faith-based abuse linked to a belief in spirit possession.

  • Methods

  • The evaluation used ‘practice-near’ methods to assess the aims, processes and outcomes of the initiative



Key findings

Key Findings Spirit Possession

….and explanations


Key findings the role of the belief system
Key findings: The role of the belief system Spirit Possession

  • Belief in spirit possession and witchcraft is widespread amongst many African communities but current knowledge indicates that the incidence of abuse linked to such beliefs appears to be low.

  • These beliefs occupy a broad spectrum, and the effects range from harmless to harmful. Belief in spirit possession and witchcraft is not of itself evidence of maltreatment.


Beliefs in witchcraft and spirit posession
Beliefs in Witchcraft and Spirit Spirit Possession Posession

  • Why are beliefs active in a complex system? impact of

    • adverse social factors (poverty, inequality, reduced access to resources, etc)

    • difficult emotional experiences, including issues of belonging/separation trigger belief systems

    • traditional ideas and authority in community are resorted to in times of difficulty

  • Beliefs operate on a spectrum:

    • Conscious <-> Unconscious exploitation of children

    • Harmless (and possibly helpful) <-> Harmful

  • Belief system can become dangerous in ‘concrete’ states of mind

    • Parents fear of child…

    • Concreteness of deliverances (amplifying the circle of concreteness, rather than reflecting/negotiating)


Why emphasise the child protection framework
Why emphasise the child protection framework? Spirit Possession

  • Need to

    • get past anxious responses to achieve informed and holistic assessments

    • differentiate harmful from harmless application of the belief system

    • identify the motives and meaning of the parents/carers/ adults in the context of their anxieties and troubles

    • recognise that other evidence of child abuse (neglect, emotional, physical and sexual) will be present in cases of W and SP, alongside accusations of witchcraft

    • develop understanding that W and SP is a set of relationships in a system – not a ‘thing’


Change tensions conflicts and negotiations
Change: tensions, conflicts and negotiations Spirit Possession

  • We found that the various activities of the organisations, which were based on promoting children’s rights, embedded in the child protection framework, generated emotive, conflictual but productive engagement with communities


Discussion of children s rights
Discussion of children’s rights Spirit Possession

  • Engaging in discussions about children’s rights Engagement with church leaders community leaders Young people, parents

  • Negotiations about children’s rights brings to the surface conflicts about values and attitudes

  • Discussions about children’s rights and child protection surfaces issues relating to witchcraft and spirit possession

  • Traditional, community assumptions about authority are challenged and

  • Gaps between African communities and UK practices are highlighted


The future our recommendations
The future? Our recommendations Spirit Possession

  • Need to

    • build on knowledge gained in the initiative

    • continue to ensure the achievement of greater understanding is disseminated

    • support the model of community intervention

    • develop statutory/voluntary sector partnerships

    • embed understanding in child protection framework and professional training


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