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TOGO: Salesian Film and Awareness Campaign Work to Address Violations of Children’s Basic Rights

(MissionNewswire) A short documentary film, “Yo no soy bruja” (translated “I’m not a witch”), sponsored by the Salesian Missions office in Madrid, Spain, is one of 21 finalists for the Espiello Awards at the International Festival of Ethnographic Documentaries in Sobrarbe, one of the traditional districts of Aragon, Spain. The festival is the only national event dedicated to the documentary genre and sets a significant industry benchmark.

The Salesian film, directed by Raúl de la Fuente, is a part of the “I’m not a witch” campaign launched in 2014 by Salesian Missions Madrid to address the ongoing child abuse and violence faced by children in Togo and other areas of Africa and Asia as a result of poverty and tribal traditions. The campaign works with families, communities, governments and the international community to raise awareness while highlighting the root causes and conditions that lead to accusations of witchcraft and the resulting violations of children’s basic rights.

“Yo no soy bruja” tells the story of several children accused of witchcraft and highlights the work of Salesian missionaries who care for them in many of their programs. One child’s story featured in the film is that of Georgette, a girl in Togo who was accused of witchcraft by her stepmother. Georgette’s hands were badly burned and scarred for life after her stepmother submerged them in boiling water, purportedly to determine if she was a witch. Today, Georgette lives at the Don Bosco Center in the city of Kara in northern Togo.

“The people who do this must not remain unpunished,” says Ana Muñoz, spokesperson for Salesian Missions Madrid. “Thousands of boys and girls like Georgette are maltreated and even killed in Africa through practices like this. Children that are a bit more lively or smarter than others or children with disabilities or illness are sometimes accused of witchcraft.”

At the Don Bosco Center in Kara, Togo, Father José Luis de la Fuente, along with other Salesian missionaries, counter the deeply rooted cultural beliefs that routinely demonize children and blame them for illnesses, deaths and other misfortunes that are more accurately the outcome of overwhelming poverty. The Don Bosco Center offers a loving home where youth can recover from their physical and emotional wounds. In addition, the Center provides opportunities to break the cycle of poverty though through education and training.

More than 80 percent of Togo’s rural population lives in conditions of poverty making the country one of the world’s poorest, according to UNICEF. Children in the country suffer the most with close to 50 percent of those living in poverty under the age of 18. One in eight children will not reach their fifth birthday, and the number of children who drop out of school because their parents cannot afford to educate them is high. Children are also forced to work in exploitative and dangerous conditions in order to help support their families.

Salesian programs in Togo provide youth a place to live, nutritious meals and counseling along with education and job skills training. The goal is to help youth develop a sense of hope for their future and learn the skills necessary to lead independent, productive lives.


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