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

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.

Six Year Anniversary
(March 2012)

In just six short years, the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign raised more than $13.5 million and boasted over 240 grandmother groups across Canada. Amazing!

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.