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Elderly Mozambique women robbed of blankets, food

Elderly women find a home at Hanhane Women's Shelter, a United Methodist-supported ministry in rural Mozambique. UMNS file photos by Mike DuBose.

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
March 3, 2008

A thief stole 32 blankets and most of the food from 42 elderly women who live in reed and thatch huts at the United Methodist-supported Hanhane Women’s Shelter in rural Mozambique.

"The houses they live in have no security," said Rosália Mauricio Queface, administrative secretary for the United Methodist Women's Society in Mozambique. "Many are alone. Many have disabilities. They were threatened and were afraid to ask for help."

The theft was reported in a church publication in February and points to the need for secure, permanent housing for the women, according to the shelter's supporters.

Known as "witch daughters," these women are driven from their homes and into the shelter because their families accused them of witchcraft.

Women who come to the shelter have been driven from their homes by families who accused them of witchcraft.


"Life for them is not easy due to the many difficulties that they face such as hunger, lack of substantial permanent houses of conventional material, and hygiene products which mean suffering from epidemic diseases," Queface said.

The shelter was established in 1982 near the town of Massinga, and the women are cared for by the United Methodist Women’s Society of Mozambique. "It is such a shame to see elderly women wandering around the streets," said Judite Gemo, a member of the society.

Catherine Mudime Akale, a regional missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, visited the shelter in 2003 and wrote in her report: "These are women who were accused of witchcraft, dispossessed of their property (cattle, houses, coconuts, farms) and disowned by their own biological children or other close relatives and exiled from their homes and communities after their husbands died."

Long-term needs

The theft was reported in the Mozambique Initiative News published by the United Methodist Missouri Annual (regional) Conference. The Missouri conference has a partnership with the churches in Mozambique and immediately sent $1,000 to purchase more food and blankets, Queface said.

The Women's Society wants to build permanent housing to protect the women from theft and to reduce the spread of diseases. Many of the women have asthma and arthritis and no access to medical care or drugs.

A new center would include dormitories that can house four women in each building. "This center will cost approximately $20,000, and we have a portion of that on hand," Queface said.

“...We are Christ’s presence to these women who suffer from aging, ailments and poverty.”–Rosália Mauricio Queface

She called on the church to respond to a great need.

"In Psalm 71:9, an aged worshiper prays for deliverance and laments, 'Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.' My friends, we are Christ’s presence to these women who suffer from aging, ailments and poverty," Queface said. "We are the church. May we hear their cry."

To contribute through The Mozambique Initiative, write check payable to "Missouri Conference UMC," marked "Mozambique–Hanhane Women’s Shelter." Mail to Missouri Conference, 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, MO 65202.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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