Photos courtesy of SLF
The AIDS pandemic has left millions of children orphaned by AIDS. Without hesitation or complaint, Africa's grandmothers have stepped in to care for them. In fact, in many countries throughout southern Africa, it is estimated that between 40%-60% of orphans live in grandmother-headed households. After burying their own adult children, they take on the responsibility of caring for their grieving grandchildren, often with little to no support and while coping with their own deteriorating health.
Yet through all this, African grandmothers have risen to become the linchpin of survival for their families and communities: they have become activists and advocates for theirs and their grandchildren's rights and protection; they are becoming small business owners in order to earn a living for their families.
African grandmothers are central to the life of their communities. With almost no support, they have stepped forward to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS, sometimes as many as ten to fifteen in one household. They display astonishing reserves of love, courage and emotional resilience, even while grieving the loss of their own adult children.
Canadians have raised over $24 million for African grandmothers through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign and in Canada we are well over 10,000 strong. Resources from the Campaign are invested directly at community level, with grassroots organizations that provide grandmothers and the children in their care with supports that include food, educational supplies, uniforms and school fees, medical care, HIV counselling and testing, adequate housing and bedding, counselling and support groups, home visits and much more.
Grandmothers are now recognized as community experts and agents of change by governments and international aid agencies. They nurture, feed and put their grandchildren into school. They work to educate their grandchildren about HIV prevention care and treatment, tend to the sick in their communities, help the recently bereaved, set up support groups, harvest the crops, and advocate for women's rights.