When the AIDS pandemic first swept across Africa, it took the lives of more than 35 million people, leaving millions of children alone and orphaned. The most vulnerable were left behind, That’s when the dedicated grandmothers stepped in to care for their precious children. By the amazing hand of the Lord, the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched in its aftermath the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in response to the crisis. The help that the foundation provided has directly impacted the African grandmothers who were struggling to raise the millions of children orphaned from the AIDS pandemic.
The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign is a solidarity movement, formed out of the mindset that respects, admires and mobilizes the expertise that women develop and deepen during their lifetimes. The organization’s mission is to amplify, justifiably the voices and expertise of the grandmothers – realizing that leadership by “older women” is seen as a crucial piece in reclaiming hope and resilience across communities and borders. It is these grandmothers of all nationalities, living oceans away – in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States who have rallied to be heard – raising necessary funds to support transformational programs run by African grandmothers and its partnered organizations, who have dedicated their resources and time to support them.
Overall, there are 250 Grandmothers’ groups throughout borders, and through the sustained campaign, our African grandmothers have been assembled to do work that impacts the lives of thousands – moving beyond their essential needs. This type of leadership includes roles in their communities like designing successful programs for specialized child care, income-generating activities such as Grandmother’s engaging in learning activities ranging from carpentry, crafting, jewelry making, textiles as well as operating small cafes. Furthermore, through national-level events and effective mobilizing within their communities, these grannies are bringing awareness to the forefront so that their governments will recognize their basic human rights and change antiquated policies to begin support the grandmothers’ of Africa.
While visiting the Coady International Institute in Canada, ROTOM founder Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi was introduced through a personal friend to the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. Kenneth quickly realized that a partnership between ROTOM and SLF together would provide the momentum to engage and support elder women in Uganda through their combined efforts.
“…In the village where we work, our grandmothers are the leaders. Grassroots mobilization has given grandmothers back their lives … this goes way beyond recovery, way beyond reclaiming what was lost. This is something brand new these women are doing. Something entirely new the world has never seen before,” says Kenneth, ROTOM’s founder and chair of the Ugandan Grandmothers Consortium. (Watch Facebook LIVE with Kenneth, here)
ROTOM works in partnership with the SLF to fund the ROTOM Grandmothers Project efforts in some of the villages in Uganda. This determined group within Uganda enables grandmothers and widows to take care of themselves and their orphaned children as envisioned by the founder of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. In total, ROTOM’s Grandmothers Project currently supports approximately 150 seniors and 85 children through the ROTOM office in Muhanga in the Rukiga District of Uganda.
Norah Makubuya, the project manager of the ROTOM Grandmothers’ Support Project in Uganda, has worked for over 15 years with ROTOM. She is a very kind and skilled organizer of budgets and the coordination of field activities, always working ‘above and beyond’ to insure that everything is perfect and is a wonderful team player. Norah says that her ROTOM journey contains many stories than she could share but identifying a single one is difficult.
“I love reaching out and interacting with the seniors – helping them cope with their daily challenges. It gives me so much joy when ROTOM is able to meet the needs of these vulnerable people. I am so motivated whenever I witness the transformation of the living conditions of ROTOM supported seniors and children.”
This valuable partnership between ROTOM and SLF continues to grow as we seek to empower the grandmothers in our programs to embrace their role in influencing the future generations to recognize and honor the role that these elderly women play in impacting the world around them for the betterment of their whole community.
***Research from this article is taken from the Grandmothers Campaign website.