Photo by Edward Echwalu

Grassroots

Fall 2015

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In this issue:
Message from Stephen Lewis
Ugandan Grandmothers' Gathering
Ugandan Grandmothers' Statement
The Ask Her Talks
Grandmothers Campaign
Financial Overview


Stephen Lewis (photo by Emmanuel Museruka)

A Message from Stephen Lewis

It’s the honesty that staggers you. There’s nothing that the Ugandan grandmothers wouldn’t discuss or share from their own experience, their own lives.

The five hundred who gathered at the conference centre broke into groups of seventy-five to talk about issues. It was an articulate frenzy, an incomparable pandemonium of voices that were rarely quiet. Everyone wanted the floor. There was not a silent participant in the entire teeming gaggle of grannies. They did allow for translation, but could hardly wait to be recognized and make their individual points… hands shot into the air with excitement, but also a deep sense that they were being heard; that their friends, old and new, took them seriously; that for almost the first time, they had a sympathetic audience, and they were going to communicate every feeling that coursed through their emotional beings.

And the feelings knew no bounds. It was so fascinating to hear the probing sophistication of the personal stories. These were not the words of yesteryear, where everything was focused on death and dying. These were the words of older women claiming their rights, loudly, brazenly, unselfconsciously. It was the march of resilience on display. The character of the conversation had changed, root and branch. Now the focus was on human rights: the right to property and inheritance and social pensions and income-generating opportunities and addressing trauma and psychological distress. Above all, they were determined to make the government take them seriously.

But what stopped the conversation in its tracks, what erupted with volcanic hilarity, was the sudden emergence of sex. And then you knew there were no limits to the delicious camaraderie in evidence. These wonderful women wanted to make it absolutely clear, wanted the world to know that regardless of age, regardless of HIV status, they were still blossoming with sexuality, and by God, they weren’t going to be discarded as sexual relics.

They almost collapsed… almost fell over one another with laughter. But the point was well and truly made.

Something very special happened in Uganda. Five hundred grandmothers, supported by six special projects, took the measure of each other and loved what they saw. It gave them great strength. It gave them trust. It gave them solidarity. It gave them confidence and hope. And it spawned visible leaders. There was unmistakable evidence of a growing grandmother’s movement. Overall, the gathering was a triumph.

At the closing ceremony, the cabinet minister, dispatched as the government representative, said that he saw the seeds of revolution. He was right.

May it come tomorrow.

Stephen Lewis
Chair of the Board
Stephen Lewis Foundation


Next: Ugandan Grandmothers' Gathering >>

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