Women living in Indian villages are banding together with the help of "microcredit" business loans of about 750 rupees ($18) to help prevent modern-day witch hunts that can prove fatal to their friends and neighbors. Allegations of witchcraft and sorcery often serve as smokescreens for personal vendettas in rural India, and can instigate brutal acts of posse-justice like the rash of witch hunt killings that took place in 2009 across the district of Kokrajhar.
According to researchers working in the tea plantations of Jalpaigur, however, village women are organizing themselves around a small, low-interest loan program to put an end to witch hunts. The loans are meant to help women start small business such as basket weaving, tailoring and selling (chicken) eggs, but women have started supporting each other through these small-business groups, forming bands of between eight and ten women that can more effectively stop a burgeoning witch hunt before it gains momentum.
University of Michigan sociologist Soma Chaudhuri, speaking to LiveScience, explained the way that the loan program has helped galvanize and organize women in rural India, where plantation workers are often poor, illiterate and at great pains to demystify the disease and deprivation that stalks through their communities. In one case of prevented witch hunting Chaudhuri documented during her seven months of researcher, a village woman was accused of causing a disease that killed livestock. A group of women formed out of the loan program gathered around the accuser's home, stated their case and convinced him to recant his accusation.
Chaudhuri further explained that activists behind the loan program have encouraged women to use their loans to grapple with domestic abuse, alcoholism and witch hunts, which they can collectively resist through the steady, insistent power of common sense.
How Tribal Women Stop Witch Hunts [LiveScience]