Strength in numbers, support needed to achieve anything

stuart nimmo/canadian press


A group of grandmothers from around the world sing at the AIDS conference.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers. An incredible project born from a powerful concept — the strength of women joining with other women to make a better world.

The Grandmother to Grandmother project, which was dreamed up by Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, the daughter of Stephen Lewis and who runs a foundation that funds HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, has been highlighted recently because of the 16th International AIDS Conference currently being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Participants, keynote speakers, activists and interested people from around the world have converged on the city for this important event. And among them, perhaps the most moving participants of all, nearly 100 grandmothers from 11 sub-Saharan African countries and 200 from Canada who have come together and formed an alliance.

Those from Africa have all lost one or more of their own children from AIDS, and are now raising their grandchildren, many of whom are also sick and/or dying from this horrible disease. According to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, about 13 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by AIDS, and these grandmothers don’t want to lose their grandchildren, too. Yet these women are mainly in their 60s and 70s and are desperately poor.

It’s obvious that here in Canada we have many more resources than these African grandmothers could possibly imagine — resources to deal with illness, education and the care of youngsters, just to name but a few. And

Canadian grandmothers are realizing that what sometimes may be difficult here is nearly impossible over there.

And these women, who have already raised a generation of children, are doing it all over again — only this time, they’re older, less energetic, often alone and impoverished.

Women to women.

It’s so stunningly simple, yet so obvious and universal. Women need each other. We need to forge unions, gaining strength in numbers and in emotional support, and we will be able to achieve anything. Think of education alone and how much we take for granted here in North America. One Kenyan grandmother explained on CBC television that what they need is to be able to educate their grandchildren, but the cost of education is completely unobtainable for her and many others like her.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers project has opened up our eyes to the need for women to band together — in any and all areas where we think we can achieve results. And there are already some programs like it, such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).

AIDS is an epidemic that is decimating Africa and taking innocent children as its victims. But we are losing our own children in our own cities to guns, gangs and violence. And we women — mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, daughters — all need to come together, to be a force, and to have a voice that can and will be heard the world over.

As the grandmothers sing, we shall overcome.