News Articles

Here is a selection of news articles about the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

To browse older articles, click on a month from the list on the right.

Click here to browse selected speeches by Stephen Lewis.

Press Release: Report of the African Grandmothers Tribunal released for World AIDS Day

African Grandmothers Tribunal: Seeking Justice at the Frontlines of the AIDS Crisis

November 29, 2013


(November 29, 2013; Toronto, Canada) The Stephen Lewis Foundation releases a groundbreaking report today, just days before World AIDS Day, on the next steps needed to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa – a manifesto for the rights of grandmothers who have become the guardians of sub-Saharan Africa’s future.

“It’s time to recognize that African grandmothers at the forefront of the HIV and AIDS crisis must have our human rights respected and protected,” states the report from the People’s Tribunal held earlier this year in Vancouver.

The African Grandmothers Tribunal included eminent activists Gloria Steinem, Joy Phumaphi, Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki, Theo Sowa and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. They heard African grandmothers demand better protection of human rights for themselves and their communities. The report recognizes that Africa’s recovery from the ravages of the AIDS pandemic depends on these grandmothers, and the time has come to recognize, respect and support their efforts to create better lives for the next generation.

The story of the African grandmothers is one of the most important stories of the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa – but, until now, the denial of these valiant women's human rights has been hidden from view. To mark World AIDS Day and the 10th anniversary of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), the Foundation is issuing the Report of the African Grandmothers Tribunal.

The United Nations estimates that there are 16 million children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. A great many of them are being cared for by grandmothers—not always their own. The Tribunal provided a public forum for the grandmothers and their organizations to testify about the human rights violations they face on a daily basis: violence, property theft, wife inheritance, extreme poverty, income and food insecurity.

“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,” grandmothers told the Tribunal and hundreds of AIDS activists who gathered in Vancouver in early September. “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. We will not let the AIDS pandemic defeat us, nor destroy our communities, but we cannot prevail alone.”

In this report, the members of the Tribunal call on governments in sub-Saharan Africa, the international community and donors to protect grandmothers, promote and enforce their human rights, and empower them to take a leading role in the development of policies and programmes to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation has responded to the report by committing to redoubling efforts to support grandmothers’ role in fighting the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

“You have given us a clear agenda for support – whether it’s a global fund for cash transfers, the need for national level advocacy, the continuing urgency for land rights and housing, access to healthcare, universal and accessible education, food security, and laws protecting grandmothers from violence and the means to enforce them,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis. “We commit to redoubling our efforts and to bend every fibre of our collective beings to break the inertia, the silence, and the dam of neglect and negligence that prevents the flood of resources from flowing. We will be accountable to you, and heed you, as must the world.”

Comment: Grandmothers help Africans turn the tide of AIDS

September 18, 2013

Judy Curran, Times Colonist

 The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign supports African grandmothers to identify what they need to care for and nurture their grandchildren and other vulnerable children in their care.

These are children whose parents have died from HIV and AIDS. Today, more than 15 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by the pandemic. In community after community, local projects have been developed at the grassroots level by the people living there.

On Sept. 7, the Stephen Lewis Foundation hosted the first African Grandmothers Tribunal, at the Chan Centre in Vancouver. The tribunal brought six representative African grandmothers and two expert witnesses from the African projects. More than 1,100 people and four tribunal judges (Gloria Steinem, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Joy Phumaphi and Theo Sowa) listened to their stories.

I had the privilege of attending this powerful gathering in Vancouver. As the African grandmothers spoke, the painful expressions on their faces were agonizing for me to see as they recounted the deaths of multiple family members from HIV/AIDS. I reeled from their examples of the violence they experienced resulting from the poverty and isolation associated with the disease. Their expressions of hopelessness and despair left me deeply moved.

Their demeanour changed as they described the hope that is generated through the foundation’s funding of projects, supporting them to secure better futures for their communities. Through their involvement, they are able to put their grandchildren through school, support them through the loss of their parents, and teach them about HIV prevention and treatment.

They are caring for people who are sick, setting up support groups, harvesting crops and creating income-generating programs. The grandmothers are advocates for their families, and are emerging as experts and leaders, increasingly acknowledged by governments and international non-governmental organizations. They are empowering themselves and regaining meaningful purpose in their lives through increasing their control over a terrifying situation.

One particularly poignant and meaningful moment for me occurred when an African grandmother told us that as she grew stronger and regained her sense of purpose in life through the opportunities the foundation-funded project afforded her, the less she thought about needing to commit suicide. Her feelings of control turned her heart and emotions to courage and she began to be able to stand up for her basic human rights and fight against the entrenched systems keeping her oppressed.

The tribunal amplified the voices of the African grandmothers concerning the discriminating triple threat they face at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic, based on their sex, age and HIV status.

The tribunal sent a clarion call to all peoples and nations to promote, protect and respect the grandmothers’ rights to property, bodily integrity, income security, freedom from violence and quality health care. The judges spoke to the need for change through improved laws, policies, funding priorities, consultation, positive cultural practices and greater access to justice.

This is precious little in the face of Africa’s reality. The world needs to awaken itself to the reality that Stephen Lewis Foundation funding is but a drop in the bucket to address the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. Additional money is needed at every level to support the community-based model whereby the African grandmothers identify their issues and develop and implement strategies to address those issues.

I am proud to be one of thousands of Canadian grandmothers who support and stand in solidarity with the incredible grandmothers of Africa. The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign I am a part of is active right across the country. We raise awareness and we raise funds, and today there are more than 240 Canadian grandmother groups.

The truth is that whether we live in Victoria or Toronto or St. John’s or Winnipeg, the tribunal showed us that we all can have a role to play in supporting African grandmothers.

Judy Curran is co-ordinator of Victoria Grandmothers for Africa.

Overduin: Standing with the grandmothers

September 18, 2013

Mia Overduin, Ottawa Citizen

It was Stephen Lewis, one-time special envoy to the United Nations for AIDS in Africa, who first drew the world’s attention to the strength, courage and resilience of African grandmothers struggling to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS.  In response to the emerging crises, the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) launched the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in March 2006 to raise awareness, build solidarity and mobilize support in Canada for African grandmothers.  Since 2006, more than 240 local grandmothers groups have joined the Campaign across Canada.  Working closely with the grassroots organizations which are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Foundation provides care and support to women, orphans, grandmothers and people living with HIV/AIDS.  Since 2003, it has funded over 700 initiatives, partnered with 300 community-based organizations in 15 African countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

After reading Stephen Lewis’ book Race Against Time and following the media coverage of the August 2006 Toronto Gathering of 100 African and 200 Canadian grandmothers, I joined a local grandmothers group in my community in January 2007.

Since the start of the crisis, African grandmothers have evolved as experts and leaders of their communities, bringing hope by building better futures and sharing their meagre resources.  Importantly, they are increasingly acknowledged by governments and international NGOs.

On September 7, 2013, the SLF hosted the African Grandmothers Tribunal to shine a public light on the denial of their human rights, and to stand with African grandmothers and their organizations.  Held at the CHAN Centre of the UBC in Vancouver, the Tribunal amplified the voices of the grandmothers and sent out a clarion call for change: to promote, protect and respect their rights to property, bodily integrity, income security, freedom from violence, and quality of health care.

Six African grandmothers and two expert witness representatives from grassroots organizations supporting the grandmothers and the vulnerable 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.  They highlighted the threat of discrimination grandmothers face at the frontlines of the pandemic, based on sex, age, and HIV status.  The Tribunal judges: Gloria Steinem, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Joy Phumaphi, and Theo Sowa responded by addressing the remedies to be secured as urgent priorities for the grandmothers at the local, national and international levels.

As we heard the stories of the grandmothers’ shattered lives, tears flowed.  What was most striking about these women was their staunchness, their regal presence commanding attention.  Dressed in radiance, star-like and warrior-like, they drew us in.  Are these the women we tend to see as victims of their devastating circumstances, their lives ravaged by AIDS, loss of their children, husbands, care for their grandchildren and other orphans?

What is it like to lose your children to AIDS, to have your land and home ripped from you by your in-laws?  How do you soothe the anguish of your grandchildren bereft of the love and security of their parents?  Where are the resources, the community supports, the government and its social networks?

Who are these warrior women who stand before us telling their heart-rending tales of loss?  Where did they get their spirit, their resolve, their resilience and their staunch solidarity?  Ever so powerful they conveyed their indomitable will to mobilize and stand together to rebuild communities of hope and support.

What came to life on this global stage in the rawness of the women’s stories was their unanimous fervour to continue their relentless, passionate work – to advocate not only for themselves and their families but also for their peers and the sanctity of life in their communities.

Is it not our responsibility as global citizens to respond to those sacred rights – their human rights of dignity, protection, freedom from violence, income security, quality health care, and access to justice?  Let this be a call to all of us Canadians to get involved and stand in solidarity with African grandmothers as transformers of change, to ensure the funds they need to turn the tide of AIDS.

Can Ilana Landsberg-Lewis keep her father’s AIDS cause in the spotlight?

September 06, 2013

Sonia Verma, Globe and Mail

The question seemed innocent enough: “Does anyone know a good eye doctor?” But this was no simple ask.

African grandmothers to share stories of loss and community leadership at Vancouver tribunal

September 06, 2013

Yolande Cole, Georgia Straight

A group of women from across sub-Saharan Africa was given a warm welcome from a crowd of Canadian grandmothers in Vancouver today (September 6). The guests are in town to take part in a landmark event at UBC.


Press Release: Report of the African Grandmothers Tribunal released for World AIDS Day November 29, 2013


Overduin: Standing with the grandmothers September 18, 2013

Mia Overduin, Ottawa Citizen

Upcoming Events

Tribunal Film Screening presented by the Grateful Grannies of Camrose January 25, 2015

Camrose, Alberta

Orangeville Gogos Creating Futures: Threads of Hope for African Grandmothers February 11, 2015

Orangeville, Ontario