African and Canadian grandmothers (Photo by Eric O'Donnell)

About the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

It’s quite extraordinary to see the bond that has developed between grandmothers on both sides of the ocean. In a dramatic way, it helps to redefine the chasm between developed and developing nations. It goes without saying that the chasm exists in the realms of poverty, conflict and disease, but in the realms of sophistication, intelligence and fundamental human decency, nothing separates the African grandmothers from the Canadian grandmothers. They are as one." – Stephen Lewis

The Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in March 2006, in response to the emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers as they struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS. What began with only a few groups of committed Canadian grandmothers has since evolved into a dynamic and responsive movement, made up of grandmothers and grandothers working to mobilize support in Canada for Africa’s grandmothers.

The Campaign currently boasts more than 240 grandmothers groups across the country. Many of the groups have organized into regional and national networks in order to support each other’s efforts in solidarity with African grandmothers and the children in their care..

Resources from the Grandmothers Campaign go to grassroots organizations that support African grandmothers with food, health care, school fees and school uniforms for their grandchildren, income-generating programmes, counselling, social support, essential shelter, and other necessities. Throughout Africa, grassroots organizations run by and for grandmothers are sharing insights, deepening their expertise, collaborating with other local organizations, and building their capacity to turn the tide of AIDS at community level.

Campaign Goals

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign exists to support the indomitable African grandmothers who are caring for the millions of children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Members of the Grandmothers Campaign share three goals. They work to:

  • Raise funds to meet the needs of African grandmothers and the children in their care;
  • Listen to African grandmothers, respect their expertise and amplify their voices, in order to promote authentic and substantive responses to the epidemic in Africa;
  • Build solidarity among African and Canadian grandmothers in order to motivate and sustain the vital work of turning the tide of AIDS in Africa.

Canadian grandmothers groups are tremendously active in their communities. They put on concerts, organize card tournaments, and sell jewellery. They visit countless schools and community organizations. They bake, cook, sew, knit, paint, write, organize cycle tours, walks, and even ride motorcycles – all to raise funds and awareness for grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

To learn more about how you can get involved in the Campaign, please click here.

You can visit the website of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign at grandmotherscampaign.org.

Campaign Milestones

Since 2006, the Grandmothers Campaign has been marked and transformed by a number of key moments. The following represents some of the key moments that have been led by the Stephen Lewis Foundation – not to mention the countless other national and local initiatives run by the grandmother groups, regional and national networks of the Grandmothers Campaign. Each and every day Canadian and African grandmothers break new ground as they forge ahead in their work to turn the tide of HIV & AIDS together.

Uganda Grandmothers Gathering in Uganda
(October 2015)

From October 5–7 2015, hundreds of grandmothers from across Uganda made history in Entebbe. They came together for the country’s first National Grandmothers’ Gathering–an unprecedented opportunity for older women diversely affected by HIV and AIDS to voice their experiences, share their innovative strategies for responding to the pandemic, and collectively lay claim to constitutionally-protected rights too often denied.

The Ugandan grandmothers were joined by grandmother delegations from Kenya and South Africa, as well as by 22 Canadian grandmothers representing thousands of members of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. For the first two days of this historic gathering, the grandmothers met in workshops, to rigorously discuss the difficult issues affecting them and their communities. On the culminating day of the Gathering, they walked jubilantly through the streets of Entebbe, demanding access to education, healthcare, land, legal representation, and freedom from violence and theft. The participants then released the powerful Ugandan Grandmothers’ Statement, calling on government, the private sector, civil society, media, UN Agencies and members of the international community to support their collective vision for a future in which their grandchildren and communities are thriving, and have left the ravages of AIDS behind.

Grandmothers Campaign Educational Trip to Africa
(March 2014)

In mid-March 2014, the Stephen Lewis Foundation led a group of 20 Canadian grandmothers to visit four grassroots partner organizations in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust (HACT) in South Africa, where the Foundation had been invited to put teams of Canadian grand(m)others on the field at the annual Gogolympics! This was HACT’s fourth annual Gogolympics to celebrate the success of their Granny Project and emphasize the importance of an active lifestyle to grannies. HACT has over 30 Gogo Support Groups operating across five communities, with 1500 members! In recent years, the gogos have started playing soccer, netball and other sports as a way to keep fit and healthy and to promote healthy living to their grandchildren. It was also a precious opportunity for older women to PLAY! When they returned, the Canadian grandmothers undertook many speaking engagements in their communities, informing and education young and old alike.

African Grandmothers Tribunal
(September 2013)

Discrimination and inequality place a heavy burden on the African grandmothers who are struggling to support communities devastated by HIV and AIDS. African grandmothers deserve better—they deserve justice. On September 7, 2013, the Stephen Lewis Foundation hosted a people’s tribunal to shine a public light on the denial of their human rights, and to issue a call for action.

Grandmothers are advocates for their families, and are emerging as experts and leaders, increasingly acknowledged by governments and international NGOs.

Six grandmothers from across sub-Saharan Africa presented their personal testimonies before the Tribunal’s judges: Theo Sowa, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Joy Phumaphi and Gloria Steinem. The women spoke directly to the triple threat of discrimination grandmothers face at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic, based on sex, age, and HIV status.

The African Grandmothers Tribunal amplified the voices of the courageous African grandmothers and sent a clarion call for change: for their rights to be promoted, protected and respected—rights to property, bodily integrity, income security, freedom from violence, and quality health care. Both the grandmothers and the expert wit­nesses—the representatives from grassroots organizations which support the grandmothers and the orphaned children in their care—spoke to the need for change through improved laws, policies, funding priorities, consultation, positive cultural practices and greater access to justice.

Based on their testimonies, the Tribunal set the stage to chart a new path forward for advancing African grandmothers’ rights. The Grandmothers issued a Call for Action “that the time has come. It’s time to recognize that grandmothers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis must have our human rights respected and protected. It’s time to support our organizations fully and put systems in place to address our needs and the needs of the children in our care. It’s time to recognize our contribution to the survival of our communities and the expertise we have developed to do so, by giving us our rightful place and voice wherever decisions are being made.”

The Stephen Lewis Foundation made a moving documentary centring on the African Grandmothers Tribunal. The film begins in Africa, and highlights the six grandmothers who gave testimony; they have become leaders, showing the way to resurrect lives, families and communities devastated by AIDS.

Five Year Anniversary
(March 2011)

In just five short years, the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign raised more than $12 million and boasted over 240 grandmother groups across Canada. A new social movement powered by elder stateswomen in communities across Canada is born.

AfriGrand Caravan
(Sep- Nov, 2010)

From September 7th to November 10th 2010, the Stephen Lewis Foundation travelled with African grandmothers and granddaughters orphaned by AIDS to 40 communities across Canada – from Saint John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia. The concept was simple: create a forum for Canadian communities to hear directly from those at the heart of community-based efforts to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa. The AfriGrand Caravan brought African grandmothers along with the emerging voices of the granddaughters, now in their teens, who inherit the terrible burden of this epidemic along with the strength and vision of their grandmothers.

During this transformative tour, 80 events were held in high schools, universities, town halls, union halls, churches and libraries where African grandmothers and granddaughters shared their deeply personal stories, their strategies, their challenges and their triumphs in dealing with the ravages of AIDS. Canadian communities responded in turn: they formed new grandmother groups where formed, forged new partnerships, and pledged continued support for the African grandmothers and granddaughters.

To watch the AfriGrand Caravan video click here.

African Grandmothers’ Gathering in Swaziland
(May 2010)

From May 6–8, 2010, hundreds of grandmothers from 13 African countries and 42 Canadian grandmother delegates travelled to Manzini, Swaziland, for the historic African Grandmothers’ Gathering. It was an extraordinary opportunity for them to stand together, share their experiences and concerns, and claim their place on the international stage as experts in the struggle against HIV & AIDS. This event culminated on May 8th, when 2,000 grandmothers united in solidarity and marched through Manzini, calling for action the world over to support them as they struggle at the frontlines of the AIDS epidemic to create a hopeful future for their families. At the close of the Gathering, the grandmothers issued the Manzini Statement, a clarion call to the world for recognition, greater resources, legal protections and a richer quality of life:

To the international community we say: true sustainability is in the hands of grandmothers and other community activists. We call on you to deliver on your promises. We have reached a real turning point in the struggle to subdue the AIDS epidemic. Now we are seeing the growing impact of our joint efforts, the need for increased and consistent resources is greater than ever… We are strong, we are visionary, we have faith and we are not alone. Together we will turn the tide of AIDS." – Excerpt from the Manzini Statement

Canadian Grandmothers’ Educational Trip to Africa
(February 2008)

In late February 2008, the Stephen Lewis Foundation organized an educational trip to Africa for a group of 12 Canadian grandmother representatives to visit grassroots organizations in Uganda, South Africa and Swaziland. There, they witnessed the incredible impact that these organizations are having in their communities and saw first-hand how African grandmothers were beginning to move beyond basic survival and forming peer support groups, planting community gardens, receiving health care and psychosocial support, and ensuring that their grandchildren were enrolled in school – to name but a few initiatives.

Grandmothers’ Gathering
(August 11-13, 2006)

The Stephen Lewis Foundation held the first international Grandmothers’ Gathering on the eve of the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto. One hundred Africans and two hundred Canadian grandmothers gathered for three days of workshops, run by the grandmothers themselves, on topics ranging from grief to traditional songs, from depression to fundraising, and from stigma to the care of children orphaned by AIDS. The Gathering provided an opportunity for Canadian grandmothers to hear the testimonies of African grandmothers first-hand, and for both Canadians and Africans to recognize and affirm a shared identity as grandmothers and leaders. Together, they created the Toronto Statement, a joint statement of commitment and intent.

We not need a great deal, but we do need enough….We grandmothers deserve hope. Our children, like all children, deserve a future. We will not raise children for the grave." – Excerpt from the Toronto Statement

In many ways, the growth, sustainability and solidarity that defines the Grandmothers Campaign is grounded in the powerful pledge issued in the Toronto Statement by Canadian grandmothers to African grandmothers at the close of the Grandmothers Gathering: “We will not rest until they can rest...May this be the dawn of the Grandmothers Movement.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign Launch
(March 7, 2006)

SLF launched the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign at a press conference in Toronto. Speakers included Stephen Lewis, Adrienne Clarkson, Shirley Douglas, South African nurse Rose and grandmother Lucia. At the time of the press conference, there were six groups of Canadian grandmothers active in Canada.
 

It’s quite extraordinary to see the bond that has developed between grandmothers on both sides of the ocean. In a dramatic way, it helps to redefine the chasm between developed and developing nations. It goes without saying that the chasm exists in the realms of poverty, conflict and disease, but in the realms of sophistication, intelligence and fundamental human decency, nothing separates the African grandmothers from the Canadian grandmothers. They are as one." – Stephen Lewis

The Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in March 2006, in response to the emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers as they struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS. What began with only a few groups of committed Canadian grandmothers has since evolved into a dynamic and responsive movement, made up of grandmothers and grandothers working to mobilize support in Canada for Africa’s grandmothers.

The Campaign currently boasts more than 240 grandmothers groups across the country. Many of the groups have organized into regional and national networks in order to support each other’s efforts in solidarity with African grandmothers and the children in their care..

Resources from the Grandmothers Campaign go to grassroots organizations that support African grandmothers with food, health care, school fees and school uniforms for their grandchildren, income-generating programmes, counselling, social support, essential shelter, and other necessities. Throughout Africa, grassroots organizations run by and for grandmothers are sharing insights, deepening their expertise, collaborating with other local organizations, and building their capacity to turn the tide of AIDS at community level.

News

Not your granny’s charity: Grandmas raise millions August 16, 2016

André Picard, The Globe and Mail

African grandmothers rally for support in battle against HIV July 22, 2016

André Picard, The Globe and Mail

Upcoming Events

Alberta Regional Grandmothers Gathering September 23, 2016

Edmonton, Alberta

Prairie Regional Grandmothers Gathering September 24, 2016

Winipeg, Manitoba