Photo by Alexis MacDonald (SLF)

Tanzania Grandmothers Gathering

Determined and excited, 200 Tanzanian grandmothers from across the country gathered in Arusha to hammer out an agenda for change. They came together to share their experiences and expertise – and to address the challenges, heartaches and successes they have had in raising their grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. Grandmothers are invaluable allies in the fight against AIDS. They are demanding a seat at the table where decisions and policies are being made that affect them, and the multitude of children in their care.

The Tanzanian Grandmothers were meeting for the first time, with a powerful momentum built on solidarity and a shared purpose – to have their voices and expertise heard by those who have the power to support them. With their grassroots organizations, they ran workshops on issues arising from the impact of the AIDS pandemic – ranging from raising children living with HIV, to inheritance rights and access to health care for older women.

A spirited Celebratory Walk ended the Gathering, when the 200 Grandmothers took to the streets, accompanied by grandmother solidarity delegates from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (with members from Canada, Australia, the UK and the US), and representatives from the organizing committees of the Uganda Grandmothers Gathering and the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering. The excitement was palpable – a regional groundswell of African grandmothers claiming their human rights has begun!

Tanzania Grandmothers Rise Up - Photo by Alexis MacDonald

Tanzania Grandmothers Statement

Grandmothers are the pillars of our nation. Since HIV and AIDS came to Tanzania, we have been raising our children’s children – a generation of young people left parentless by the pandemic. We knew we had to keep these orphans close and show them love. HIV and AIDS is still a major threat to our country, but Tanzania endures, because we grandmothers have endured.

We are making history. For the first time in Tanzania, over 200 grandmothers from across the country have gathered together in Arusha to connect, learn from one another and to form a vision of the future that we want to see for our families and communities. Our movement is growing and we are not alone – we were joined here by grandmothers from Uganda and South Africa. There is great solidarity. We know that we must all use our voices. Africa’s grandmothers are rising up.

We love our grandchildren from our hearts, and we have done a lot. But we are over-burdened. A single grandmother raising 4 to 6 to 10 grandchildren on her own pays a heavy price. Our small incomes can’t support our families. We struggle to feed the children and keep them in school. Healthcare is out of reach. Our rights to our own land are constantly under threat. We face the stigma of HIV and AIDS, and as we get older our lives are valued less and less. We are speaking out now because we know that if we hide these truths, the problems will never end.

Grandmothers stand with the orphans, but who stands for us? We must not be left alone to raise the next generation. Our NGOs and community-based organizations have brought us together, and all too often they are our only allies. These orphaned children are society’s future leaders, they belong to all of us, and we must all be responsible.

We call upon our beloved nation of Tanzania to protect our rights and care for us grandmothers. We acknowledge the existence of well-intentioned policies and programmes such as TASAF (Tanzania Social Action Fund), but they are not reaching us.

We call specifically, and with the greatest urgency for:

  • Pensions for the elderly
  • Supportive terms for personal and business loans
  • Grants for vulnerable grandchildren and assistance with school costs and higher education
  • Guaranteed provision of free medical services and medication to the elderly
  • Protection of our land and property rights
  • Protection from violence and discrimination based on age and disability
  • Representation of grandmothers at all levels of government, including creating national and local grandmothers’ committees
  • Data collection on grandmothers at both local and national levels
  • A national day for Tanzania’s grandmothers
  • Budget allocation from all levels of government for grandmothers

We also call on the international community to respect grandmothers and provide Tanzania with the support it needs to advance our cause. Grandmothers from around the world – including from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – have joined us in solidarity. We are asking their governments and agencies to step up and do the same.

Tanzania: Protect us, listen to us, and give us opportunities. We are not asking for favours. We are speaking out for our human rights and wellbeing. Grandmothers are the reflection of our nation. When we are well taken care of, the entire society will flourish.

Bibi Ni Nguzo!

Grandmothers Gathering, Arusha, Tanzania

February 26 – March 1, 2018


Download the Tanzania Grandmothers Statement as a PDFEnglish  |  Swahili

Profound Thanks

Three SLF partners organized The Tanzania Grandmothers Gathering. These community-based organizations are experts in working with grandmothers and children orphaned by AIDS in Tanzania: Maasai Women Development Organization (MWEDO), Kimara Peers, and Rainbow Centre.

The Tanzania Grandmothers Gathering was made possible through the generous financial support of the Slaight Family Foundation and the leadership of Gary and Donna Slaight. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to support these historic gatherings and the collective efforts of African Grandmothers, who, with their grassroots organizations, are at the heart of the community-based response to HIV and AIDS throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

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