Grandmothers stand up – granddaughters speak out
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been inspired by the courage and resilience of women, men and young people on the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, working to turn the tide of AIDS in their communities. In Canada, more than 240 grandmothers groups (part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign) elementary, high school and university students, union activists, faith communities, community members, businesses and professionals have raised awareness and funds to support people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.
The AfriGrand Caravan is a response to the outpouring of concern, compassion and commitment of Canadians. From September to November, the Stephen Lewis Foundation will travel across the country with African grandmothers and granddaughters orphaned by AIDS. The AfriGrand Caravan will create a forum for these women to tell their stories and share their strategies, and talk about their challenges and triumphs in dealing with the ravages of AIDS. It will also offer Canadians in 40 communities the opportunity to be inspired by these stories and to join the movement.
In many ways, African Grandmothers have become the linchpin of survival for their families and communities, dealing with the devastation wrought by a quarter century of the pandemic. They bury their adult children and inherit the burden of care for their orphaned grandchildren. With the support of community-based organizations run for and by grandmothers, they hold their families and communities together.
Young women are the most vulnerable in the context of HIV and AIDS. They are often the first to be pulled out of school to help care for dying mothers and raise families of orphaned siblings: feeding them and keeping them in school. The struggle for family survival leaves them exposed to unwanted and unprotected sex as they live their adolescent years in the grips of rampant poverty, hunger, and lack of adequate education and opportunities. Despite the failure of governments to live up to their commitment to assist, these breathtakingly resilient young women refuse to give up on a happier and healthier future. With the support of grassroots programmes, they engage in innovative ways to resurrect their lives.
Like many, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has been profoundly influenced and inspired by the courage, intelligence and effectiveness of the grassroots response to AIDS in Africa. We’re similarly motivated by the generosity and activism of individuals in Canada who have given new meaning to the phrase ‘global citizenship’.
Now the AfriGrand Caravan provides an opportunity for Canadians across the country to hear directly from those at the heart of community-based efforts to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa. Caravans are a time-honoured way of bringing exciting events to town – generating momentum from community to community along the way. The AfriGrand Caravan builds-upon this tradition.
For the first time, individuals in 40 Canadian communities from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia will be able to connect directly with African women and girls at the heart of these community-based initiatives.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation invites you to join the AfriGrand Caravan, engage in meaningful dialogue, and stand in solidarity with us as we do everything in our power to support their efforts to overcome.
For more information, please visit http://www.stephenlewisfoundation.org/caravan.htm