African Grandmothers’ Gathering, Day 2
“I am positive and I am free” says a South African Grandmother.
Day two of the Gathering was both exciting and exhausting, filled with intense joy and heartbreaking sadness. 500 grandmothers from 13 African countries came together to share their experiences as caregivers, community activists and experts. The day was organized and led by African grandmothers and the staff of the projects. Eighteen separate workshops covered wide ranging topics on HIV/AIDS and poverty, the desperate need for social security, sustainable economic empowerment and gender-based violence.
Women’s empowerment was at the core of all workshops at the Gathering, especially the right to raise strong, healthy and confident grandchildren with dignity, access inaccessible legal systems that discriminate against women in areas of property rights and horrific gender-based violence, and the obligations of governments in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
What follows is a snapshot of some of the issues and themes, challenges and solutions, and burdens and demands that arose again and again throughout the day as told through the words of African grandmothers. No one could say it better.
“When we empower women, the whole community benefits!”
“Children are the branches and we are the roots.”
Sibongile lost her husband. People came to her rural home and were hostile. “Your husband died of AIDS and you are going to die in 3 months.” They started to take her property. “They threw me out of my home. I took my children but they took everything else. I am a survivor. I have been living with HIV and I am still strong.”
“Politicians always buy the vote with short term gifts like blankets or food. I say eat but don’t vote for him.”
“The work we are doing in our projects should actually be done by our governments. Our success should be celebrated, but let’s not forget to mention our government’s failures. We need pensions, we need health care, we need better education for our children, we need social services.”
“I was dying before got help from the project. Now that I am not dying what do I do? What can we do to support our children?”
“Try to explain to a child that her mother was HIV-positive and died, but that she is HIV-positive and can live.”
“What happened in Africa? Grannies refused to die!”
“Dancing means there is hope.”
“If you build it yourself, you sustain it yourself.”