The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

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Celebrating a Decade of Solidarity!

At the launch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in 2006, Canadian and African grandmothers welcomed the dawn of the Grandmothers Movement.  In Canada, four grandmothers groups quickly became 40 and then 100 over the course of just a few months – growing to 240 groups today – as older women found shared identity, purpose and sisterhood in grandmotherhood.

And if 2006 was that dawn, then the 10 Year Anniversary of the Campaign shines on a movement in full swing—vibrant and unwavering! The Campaign has raised over $25 million. Canadian grandmothers have been joined by grandmothers in Australia and the United Kingdom, all equally committed to creatively raising funds and awareness for the community-based organizations that are run for and by African grandmothers.  The movement is one of solidarity – not charity – and grandmothers in Africa, Canada, and elsewhere are pushing back stereotypes that marginalize and silence older women. African expertise and agency are at the centre of the movement.

On the occasion of the Campaign’s 10 Year Anniversary, grandmothers pause for a brief moment to celebrate their accomplishments, but more importantly they recommit and redouble their efforts to raise funds and awareness for African grandmothers, who are truly turning the tide of AIDS in Africa.

Reflecting on the Campaign's Milestones: 

First Grandmothers Gathering

In August 2006, just five short months after the press conference that launched the Grandmothers Campaign, the Foundation held the First International Grandmothers Gathering in Toronto. One hundred African and two hundred Canadian grandmothers gathered for three days of solidarity building, and unveiled the Toronto Statement—a proclamation that has guided the Campaign in the decade since. It was here that Canadian grandmothers first issued the powerful pledge which continues to ground their work today: “We will not rest until they can rest!”

African Grandmothers Gathering

For three extraordinary days in May 2010, hundreds of grandmothers from 13 African countries and 42 Canadian members of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign gathered for the first time on the African continent in Swaziland. They came together to share their experiences and concerns, and to lay the groundwork for a regional network of grandmothers turning the tide of AIDS. Culminating with a march by 1,000 grandmothers through the streets of Manzini, African Grandmothers Gathering participants declared: “We are strong, we are visionary, we have faith and we are not alone!”

Fundraising Innovation

From art auctions, to fabric sales, to fashion shows, to scrabble tournaments, the fundraisers held by grandmothers groups across Canada have been astonishingly diverse and equally successful. Since the Campaign’s inception in 2006, Campaign members in Victoria and Ottawa have participated in annual cycling fundraisers, biking nearly 300 kms each year, and raising roughly $925,000 thus far in support of African grandmothers and their community-based organizations.

Stride to Turn the Tide

Each June, grandmothers groups across the country take part in ‘Stride to Turn the Tide’ in support of the grandmothers of Africa who walk every day—to attend far-away clinics and markets, to collect water and deliver grandchildren safely to school, to provide home-based care, and to protest violations of their human rights. Through their own annual walks, Campaign members collect pledges and have raised more than $1.9 million dollars all told.

Care in Crafting

Like so many grandmother support groups across the African continent, grandmothers groups affiliated with the Grandmothers Campaign routinely make crafting a part of their activities together—engaging in sewing, card-making, and much more. For the CanGo Grannies in Kamloops, this includes the annual creation of beautiful holiday wreaths and arrangements, the sale of which contributes to the funds raised by the group in support of grand- mothers in sub-Saharan Africa, and the children in their care.

African Grandmothers Tribunal

In 2013, the Stephen Lewis Foundation hosted an historic people’s tribunal to shine a public light on the denial of African grandmothers’ human rights, and to issue a call to action. Attended by hundreds of Grandmothers Campaign members and supporters, the Tribunal featured testimony by six grandmothers from across sub-Saharan Africa, before four high-profile judges: Theo Sowa, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Joy Phumaphi and Gloria Steinem. The Tribunal amplified the voices of African grandmothers, and charted a new path for advancing African grandmothers’ human rights.

Challenging Stereotypes

In addition to supporting community-based organizations over the last decade, the Grandmothers Campaign has transformed the lives of its own members—giving older women a shared sense of purpose and identity, and creating whole new communities across Canada and the world, centred on the notion of grandmotherhood. Like so many of its fellow grandmothers groups, Edmonton’s “the GANG” (Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation) routinely challenges stereotypes about gender, about charity, and about aging through its ongoing work.

Uganda Grandmothers Gathering

The 2015 Uganda Grandmothers Gathering signified the first in a series of national-level gatherings of African grandmothers, and was attended by 22 Grandmothers Campaign delegates from Canada and the U.K. They bore witness to the release of the powerful Ugandan Grandmothers’ Statement, which declares: “We are not young, but we are strong... We have breath to sing and energy to dance. We are moving forward! Join us!”

10 Year Anniversary

Over the course of the past year, Campaign members have been celebrating a decade of solidarity, sisterhood, and achievement. Most recently, Ugandan grandmothers Mariam Mulindwa and Immaculate Nakyanzi, and Zimbabwean grandmothers Regina Dongo and Maude Nhau participated in regional Grandmothers Gatherings in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Toronto, and Vancouver, marking ten years together. African grandmothers are changing the course of the AIDS epidemic in their communities and beyond, and the Grandmothers Campaign is with them every step of the way.



Spotlight on Grandmothers Groups


“Being a small group does not stop us from hosting some very unique and successful events.  For 5 years we have hosted a curling bonspiel.  Fergus is a Scottish town and our curling club is the longest, continuously running curling club in Canada.  We meet often to focus our attention on the courageous, resilient and remarkable grandmothers who overcome significant barriers and challenges every single day and who inspire us to continue to stand in solidarity with them.”

—Grandmothers of the Grand, Fergus, ON


“Our members have continued to stand in solidarity with African grandmothers partly because we are inspired by their diligence, determination, courage and resilience, but also because we are inspired by each other!  We realize that the grandmothers of the world have much to offer society and we have an important role to play in improving our world.”

—Ujamaa Grandmas, Calgary, AB


“Enthusiasm, generosity and compassion are contagious in the Royal City Gogos.  At our monthly meetings a member presents a “Focus on Africa” talk or slide show.  This helps to keep us focused, not only on our purpose, but also on giving us a personal way of rekindling our initial enthusiasm. We have a great spirit of “do what you can” which makes us even more generous with our time.”

—Royal City Gogos, Richmond, BC


“We have a few favourite events but our longest-standing and most successful is our Chili Dinner Fundraiser — 'EAT THE CHILI, KEEP THE BOWL.'  Local potters provide 200 bowls, local restaurants provide a variety of chilis (including elk and bison!) and we have two sittings of 100.  Grannies make desserts, cornbread and provide the wine.  We sell things and have a draw for a local artifact.  After 8 years, we have ironed out the wrinkles and it is fun for all!”

—Mountain Grannies, Canmore/Banff, AB


“We are at a time in our lives where sitting back and admiring our accomplishments are not options. Our age has given us perspective, our insights allow us to have empathy towards others and our strength has allowed us to set new goals. We hope to be an example for the next generation!”

—Grassroot Grannies, Ottawa-Gatineau, ON/QC


“We chose our group name of Ranges Aid because we live in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Our group formed in 2014 after a talk by the SLF in Melbourne. We are unique because we were the first group to be established in Australia! Our proudest accomplishment is our first group donation to the SLF. We were able to double our fundraising goal for the year!”

—Ranges Aid, Melbourne, AU

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