The child-witches of Kinshasa

PhotographerGwenn Dubourthoumieu
PrizeBronze in Press / Feature Story
Entry Description

Between 20 000 and 50 000 children live in the streets of Kinshasa. Organized in gangs, they get by, sometimes thanks to theft or prostitution. According to Médecins du Monde, more than a third of them were chased away from their home in the pretext that they were child-witches and responsible of all the troubles of the family (death, unemployment, disease, etc.). The immense majority of the people living in Kinshasa are persuaded by the truthfulness of this curse. More than one hundred new "child-witches" are so discovered every month and thrown out in the streets. The faith in witchcraft is profoundly rooted in the Congolese culture, but the phenomenon, which consists in abandoning children by accusing them of witchcraft, took a notorious scale only since the end of 1990s. In this immense overpopulated shanty town that is Kinshasa, where 95 % of the population get by below the poverty line, the children are unproductive mouths to feed.

About Photographer

After a B.S. in Business Administration and Management and a M.S. in Humanitarian Affairs, I began working for NGOs, mainly based in Africa, in the fields of logistics and project coordination. In 2004, I went to Somalia where I specialized in Mine Action until 2007, when I moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I continue to live and work as a freelance photographer. Having spent several years of my life in conflict areas (Somalia, Sudan, DRC), I have not only witnessed situations of great suffering, but also the inspiring courage often shown by the victims themselves and the humanitarian workers. Quite understandably, I decided to vouch for these difficult situations and for the work of the people determined to face them. For that reason, I often continue to collaborate with humanitarian and development NGOs and UN agencies. I also regularly collaborate with AFP, In 2009, I was short listed among five finalists for the international photojournalism contest “Le Tremplin Photo de l’EMI”. In 2010, I was shortlisted among the finalists of the Getty Images Grants for Good and I was awarded the «Prix Spécial du Jury» at the SCOOP festival of Angers (France) for the feature «Etat d’Armes». In 2011, I won the Getty Images Grant for Good, the Investigation Price at the European Festival of Journalism of Lille (France) and a Special Mention at the Scam Roger Pic Price in Paris (France).