Grandmothers celebrate at the Grandmothers Gathering (Photo by Scott Morgan)

Grandmothers Gathering

The Stephen Lewis Foundation held the first ever Grandmothers Gathering in August 2006, on the eve of the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto. One hundred Africans and two hundred Canadian grandmothers gathered for two 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. On the third day, the women marched through the streets of Toronto for a closing ceremony at CBC Headquarters, attended by (current UNAIDS Director) Michel Sidibe, singer Alicia Keys, and a host of others. 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.

In many ways, the growth, sustainability and solidarity that defines the Grandmothers to 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.”

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