The first day of the African Grandmothers Gathering started early. A 9:00 am registration at the Convention Centre meant that all of us had to be awake and fed and on the buses by 8:30am. This might sound like an easy task, but when you consider that multiple grandmothers share one room with one shower, and that more and more grandmothers from Swaziland and across Africa were arriving every moment, it was an accomplishment!
Add to that, the fact that the Queen Mother of Swaziland was attending the Gathering, which meant that each of us had to enter the Convention Centre one-by-one through a metal detector.
Once we all arrived though, magic started to happen. Despite the fact that many of the African grandmothers had arrived only that morning, and had been on planes or in airports overnight, we were all energized by each other’s presence. Siphiwe Hlope from Swaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL,) and one of the organizers of the event, spoke powerfully about the need for immediate action to address the needs of grandmothers.
Ilana Landsberg-Lewis (Executive Director, Stephen Lewis Foundation) vigorously delivered a speech on behalf of Stephen Lewis, who was unable to attend the Gathering.
Throughout the long programme of speakers, the grandmothers always found ways to reenergize each other. Young Swazi performers – dancing and singing and drumming – were met with the loud ululations of grandmothers from every country. The breaks in between each dinner course and the favourite songs played by the brass band meant standing up and dancing at every table.
Despite the distance or time it took us to get to this place, or the hardship or ease of our journey, or the number of years we’ve walked on this earth, we all knew that we were at the start of something extraordinary – the African Grandmothers Gathering.