Nyamizi, 73, Tanzania

Witchcraft accusations are a critical factor in women's rights abuses in Sukumaland, Tanzania, and are often generated by wider problems in the community.

For example, limited understanding of HIV and AIDS and other illnesses can result in the belief that a family has been "bewitched".

Nyamizi was accused by a neighbour of bewitching his child. She was brutally attacked but her attacker was never brought to justice. Nyamizi was accused by a neighbour of bewitching his child. She was brutally attacked but her attacker was never brought to justice. (c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge International Nyamizi said: "I've lived in this village since I was first married. By 1970, I had nine children. I have a small business here - I make a local brew and I also grow some crops. It's my own business I started after my husband died four years ago.

Accused by a neighbour

"I'm a good person and people like me. But I have a neighbour, a wealthy man who had a sick child, who eventually died. The neighbour accused me.

"I received a threatening letter which said, "you must leave this village, move 15 villages away from here. If not the sungu-sungu (a group of men, given the role by their communities of guarding the people and their property) from this village will do something that you will never, ever forget".

"On reflection, I believe that a traditional healer pointed the finger at me (i.e. accused me), but I don't have proof.

Struck with a machete

"I took the letter to the primary court. We went home, and my neighbour denied sending the letter. Some time later I was returning home at night. Suddenly, someone came running towards me - he struck me with a machete and chopped off my arm and slashed my head. It was dark but I recognised the person.

"People rushed me to hospital. I was unconscious for over a day and in hospital for three weeks. I was sure I was going to die. While I was in hospital the police came and questioned the villagers including the man I suspect.

"When I recovered I was given a letter by the police to call me to court. The first time, the judge didn't come and the second time I was told the case had already been heard and I had lost, but the police had never told me.

"I was very angry when I heard this and I went to the police. A friend of my son said he would raise the case again and asked for my admission card. But the card was then lost. I believe he was bribed by the suspect to lose the admission card.

"Without it I had no evidence and no case. All my efforts ended. I have never been back in court. There is no justice. I survive on my own ability. I didn't get justice because I couldn't pay for it. No one takes action for those who are poor.

Things are changing now

"But that was a few years ago. Things are changing now and changing fast. There are not so many threatening letters these days. There is awareness of legal rights now.

"But for women living alone it's a bigger problem. And the government is not sure what to do. The government is not involved enough in these issues, though I can see other organisations (NGOs) care about this."

Annastasia, Nyamizi's daughter said: "Things are different. People are more open, they know more about the threats which were secret before.

"The sungu-sungu have changed and are now "wasalama" (peace-keepers) and exist in each village to protect us. They are the same people but now they protect us."

"I was returning home at night. Suddenly, someone came running towards me - he struck me with a machete and chopped off my arm and slashed my head."

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