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Ode to “The Witches”: Happy Mother’s Day



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I often write fondly about my grandmother, Ma, who nurtured and fed me as a child, who I observed kneeling at the foot of her bed to thank the “Almighty and Powerful God” every morning. Ma was a phenomenal woman. If you give me all the vocabulary in the world, it won’t be enough to describe or celebrate her.

Ma cared for many people; many family members came and stayed with her as they tried to make a life in Monrovia. She catered to all of her grandchildren, buying diapers and baby formula. When our parents were out of jobs, she provided for us. When family members struggled to build homes, she assigned each one a room in her house with their spouses. Ma was the primary financier in many people’s lives. As she aged, the number of people around her began to grow smaller and smaller. Her visitors were not many, and some grandchildren started getting afraid to come around. The word out was that she was a “witch.” They believed she was responsible for some people’s failures and that she used their destinies to stay alive. This narrative is not just Ma’s story; it is the story of many old ladies in Africa.

The longer you live, the higher your chances of elder abuse and accusations of being a “witch.” Due to this stigma, some women endure unnecessary hardship and pain. Some are banished from the only homes they have known, while others are beaten and starved. Today many of these women’s fates are in the hands of spiritualists and Pastors who often advise their children and grandchildren to avoid them if they want to have children, get married, and/or obtain wealth.

I fondly remember Ma on this Mother’s Day—I remained close to her until her death. Despite the accusations and rumors, my children are alive, I got married, and God continues to bless me. My relationship with my grandmother did not hinder any part of my life.

To the children and grandchildren of those labeled, please find your mother and grandmother and care for them. Blessings and riches are from God, don’t be misled. I celebrate every old woman labeled a “witch” by family and friends. May God send you helpers on this day and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day, grannies!!

  • Mrs. Leymah R. Gbowee is a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and writes for National Daily Newspaper 

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