Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Grandmothers' summit in Swaziland

Grandmothers from across Africa are organizing to call attention to their unique plight. Grandmothers are often the ones to care for their grandchildren after the parents die from AIDS. These Grandmothers are often in ill health themselves or have to keep working to support the children even at an old age.

From the Guardian, writer David Smith attended the Grandmother's summit.

"It's a lost group, a lost voice," said Philile Mlotshwa of Swapol (Swaziland Positive Living), which is organising the event in partnership with the Canadian-based Stephen Lewis Foundation . "They are the heroes yet no one has gone to them to say we recognise your efforts."

The organisers say it is time to heed the "indomitable and indefatigable" grandmothers who step forward to care for children, sometimes as many as 10 to 15 in one household. "They are holding together the social fabric of communities across the continent."

Mlotshwa continued: "Grandparents have always played an important role in solving disputes and as a source of knowledge. But now the younger generation is not there: people aged 29 to 49 are dying from HIV-Aids We are seeing a demographic of the elderly and the very young who've lost their parents."

She added: "Grandmothers are at the frontline of the HIV-Aids impact. They have to pick up the pieces and move on. They don't have time to grieve because the children need to be looked after. They are doing this without any income.

"They are not healthy people: they are sick with diabetes and high blood pressure. We are seeing women who are carrying on in spite of the challenges and the fear of what will happen to these grandchildren if they die."

Mlotshwa said she hoped the gathering would raise awareness of grandmothers' needs. "Various responses to HIV-Aids have been designed but not yet targeted at them."

The grandmothers are likely to seek international support for grief counselling, access to healthcare for themselves and children in their care, safe and adequate housing, economic security, safety from gender-based violence, raising community awareness and breaking stigma, support in raising grief-stricken grandchildren and access to education for children.

Grandmothers from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe will be represented.

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