African Grandmothers’ Gathering – call for support as they struggle on the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic

On May 6th-8th, 2010, a truly historic event took place in Africa. Five hundred grandmothers from across sub-Saharan Africa joined together in Swaziland for the first international Grandmothers’ Gathering on the continent. On May 8th, 2,000 grandmothers united in solidarity and marched in the capital city of Manzini, to call for support and action the world over to support them as they struggle at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic to create a hopeful future for their families.

African grandmothers congregated to share their experiences and concerns, and to lay the groundwork for a strong regional network to support one another as they strive to turn the tide of AIDS. These courageous women, who are caring for scores of grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, made their voices heard, amplifying the urgent need for increased support, the recognition of their leadership, and the pivotal role they play in resurrecting families and communities damaged by the loss and strife of the AIDS pandemic.

Since the Grandmothers’ Gathering in Toronto in 2006, which brought together 100 Africans and 200 Canadian grandmothers, the SLF has been providing financial support to organisations both run by and for grandmothers to support them and the grandchildren in their care.

These projects have flourished and deepened the breadth and reach of their work. They have grown the number of grandmothers involved in grief counselling and income generation. They have opened grandmother-led early childhood education centres, and increased hugely the numbers of grandmothers in support groups. They have taken on home-based care work – identifying households in crisis and bringing care, sustenance and support to ever-more families in their communities.

The Gathering will provide these remarkable women the opportunity to talk about the advances made in their work and their understanding of the role of grandmothers in the context of the AIDS pandemic, and identify the way forward – from programming, to advocacy, policy and funding aspirations and intentions at the regional, country and community levels.

Imagine the determination it takes to care for three, five or fifteen children orphaned by AIDS, with little or no resources. Imagine the many trips every day for water and firewood, and the backbreaking labour of working to harvest enough food to eat, and perhaps a little to sell for money. Imagine losing your own children to AIDS and becoming a parent anew in your fifties, sixties or seventies.

Now imagine all of that determination, commitment, ingenuity and hope coming together for one purpose: to turn the tide of the pandemic across the continent. The implications are simply stunning.


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