July Granny Bulletin: Stephen and Ilana speak to grandmothers groups, and our role at the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering

Granny Bulletin: July 2016

Welcome to the Granny Bulletin, your source for news, stories and information about exciting initiatives from the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

In this Granny Bulletin:

  1. Dear Grandmothers and Grandothers
  2. The Inside Scoop: The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS
  3. Grandmothers Campaign Delegation to South Africa and Zambia
  4. Grandmothers Gatherings with Stephen Lewis and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis!
  5. Thank You for a Fantastic Stride to Turn the Tide!
  6. July Monthly Reveal: Throw Back Thursdays on Facebook

1. Dear Grandmothers and Grandothers

Dear Grandmothers and Grandothers,

Happy hot and steamy July!  As you read this, ten members of the Grandmothers Campaign – eight from Canada and two from Australia – have just arrived in Zambia. They will be visiting two of the SLF’s community-based partners in Lusaka and then attending the first-ever South Africa Grandmothers Gathering in Durban, South Africa.

The South Africa Grandmothers Gathering, which will take place July 14-16, 2016, is going to be a pivotal event for the South African and international grandmothers’ movements. It is an unparalleled opportunity for South African grandmothers and community-based organizations to learn from each other’s resourcefulness and innovation, strengthen the national movement for grandmothers’ rights, and collaborate in their advocacy efforts. In addition, because the gathering will occur just days before the start of the International AIDS Conference in Durban, it is a historic opportunity to make grandmothers’ rights a focal point for the international community.

Our Executive Director, Ilana Landsberg Lewis, shares some of her thoughts on the Gathering:

“When African grandmothers first came together with Canadian grandmothers in Toronto in 2006, they were in the grips of the AIDS pandemic. They were grieving and they had stepped in to care for millions of orphaned grandchildren.  Since that time and with two subsequent grandmothers gatherings in Swaziland (2010) and Uganda (2015), the voices of African grandmothers are getting louder and more organized.  Their resilience is astonishing.

In Durban, grandmothers from across South Africa will gather to advance their demands and find strength and sisterhood in one another.  South African grandmothers are the Gathering’s organizers, and along with twenty community-based organizations, have identified the issues they demand be addressed, including HIV disclosure, parenting, HIV testing, pensions and land and inheritance rights.

Over three days, the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering will encompass dozens of workshops run by the grandmothers themselves and supported by community-based organizations, song and dance and a cultural night, and a powerful march to the site of the International AIDS Conference.  There, the South African grandmothers will deliver their statement to the world, The Durban Statement.

The International AIDS Conference is taking place in Durban July 18-22, following the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering. This is a watershed moment. It is the first AIDS conference to be held in Africa in 15 years.  It is also taking place at a crucial moment in the pandemic’s history: there are still some 6000 new infections a day, 2000 new infections a day affecting young people between 15-21 years of age. Of these young people, seven out of ten are girls. We are very far from the end of AIDS.

The Treatment Action Campaign, the pre-eminent AIDS activist group in Africa and internationally, has sounded an alarm that this conference marks the next chapter for AIDS activism. UNAIDS has said that if there isn’t greater involvement, and greater focus on gender – the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in the next five years, will mean a resurgence of the pandemic.”

Together with organizations like TAC, the grandmothers of Africa – with your love and support as passionate and stalwart members of the Grandmothers Campaign – refuse to let that happen.

Photos, stories, a Gathering Report and the Durban Statement will be available to all grandmothers groups via the Granny Bulletin or by emailing us at anytime after August 15th.  We encourage you to use them at your talks and events and share them far and wide.

In solidarity,

Graham Coultas, Director of the Grandmothers Campaign

2. The Inside Scoop: Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS

On June 21, we held the first in a series of Telephone Town Halls for members of the Grandmothers Campaign. This one featured SLF Director of Policy Lee Waldorf, who spoke about the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS adopted by United Nations Member States on June 8, 2016.

Here are some excerpts from Lee’s Telephone Town Hall talk:

“There are a number of things that are actually quite wonderful in the Declaration from the perspective of the work of the SLF and from the perspective of work to support grandmothers in Africa. There are also some things that are highly problematic and distressing about it. These things don’t cancel each other out; anything that you get 189 governments to agree on is imperfect– the good stuff is really good and the bad stuff is really bad.

The good

  • Governments are recognizing there’s an emergency right now. The potential crisis and the need to act to turn the pandemic away from resurgence is abundantly clear.
  • We’re seeing important recognition of the centrality of women and girls in this work, the centrality of children and adolescents, and the crisis in sub-Saharan Africa with regards to both.
  • We also see some things that are happily shocking like repeated instances of underlining the need for holistic programming. This is absolutely the philosophy of our African community-based partners. That’s where they are coming from and now that’s getting quite seriously endorsed.
  • There’s a massive push for increased funding from governments. There’s a need for everyone to commit an awful lot of money right now so that, in five years’ time, we’re not hurtling backwards into a deepening crisis.
  • Many targets were set. Targets on how many children and adolescents will be on treatment. Targets, remarkably, on the percent of service delivery by community-led organizations. This has never happened before! There have never been concrete numbers next to the support and work of community-based organizations. The language of the Declaration says that there has to be funding to build the capacity of community-based organizations so that they are in a position to deliver 30% of all services by 2030. This is an incredible recognition of the meaningfulness of the work community-based organizations do!
  • On the topic of provisions in a declaration that many thought they would never see, there’s a huge provision on raising funds to support social protection programmes for children and their caregivers. It goes on at great lengths about the various elements that are needed to make sure that these families can survive. And it reads like a proposal from one of our African community-based projects!

The bad

A group of governments started pulling out all the references to key populations in the document. “Key populations” is the over-arching term that is used for groups most affected or at risk in terms of the transmission of HIV, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use intravenous drugs, and sex workers. Recognition of key populations is critical to effectively targeting the HIV/AIDS response, and it’s also critical to the anti-discrimination response within countries. The fact that certain marginalized groups are recognized as in need of protection vis-a-vis HIV/AIDS is politically valuable for those groups; it helps the advocates in-country to insist on better treatment. But despite this, some countries were pulling any recognition of these groups and pulling any provisions saying that care had to be taken and emphasis needed to be placed on them. Losing recognition as a population in need of care is devastating.

In conclusion

The Declaration will go down in history as infamous in one regard and in another, as moving forward work with women and girls and community-based organizations in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also a Declaration that is primed to push a serious increase in the funding levels. The situation is much more urgent than UNAIDS has been suggesting over the last number of years and the Declaration absolutely recognizes this.”

Stay tuned for the announcement of future Town Hall telephone calls.

3. Grandmothers Campaign Delegation to South Africa and Zambia

The 10 grandmothers from Canada and Australia who have been selected as delegates to represent the Grandmothers Campaign at the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering have arrived in Zambia where they will visit SLF partner organizations before heading to the Gathering. When they return, they’ll have so much to share, including stories, photos and new insights into the lives and experiences of South African and Zambian grandmothers! Each traveller has committed to one year of sharing what she learned with grandmothers groups, faith communities, schools, media and community organizations. We’re happy to connect you or your group with a returning delegate! Just email us at Here are the delegates:

  • Bev Suek, Grands ‘n’ More Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB
  • Carol Jean Little, Grandmothers by the Lake, Harrowsmith, ON
  • Dolores Meade, Grannies Aid for Africa, Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC
  • Elizabeth McNair, Omas Siskona K-W, Kitchener, ON
  • Gail Greenberg, Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers Regina, Regina, SK
  • Gail Wilen, Sunshine Coast Grandmothers and GrandOthers, Sechelt, BC
  • Jeanette Froese, Capilano Grandmothers to Grandmothers, North Vancouver, BC
  • Joanne Gormley, Grannies for Good, Montreal, QC
  • Kerry Little, Grand Greeting Cards, Sylvania, New South Wales, Australia
  • Margaret Hunter, Ranges Aid, Junction Village, Victoria, Australia.

4. Grandmothers Gatherings with Stephen Lewis and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis!

This Fall, like every Fall before it, we look forward to Grandmothers Gatherings in regions across Canada. This year, we have the 10 Year Anniversary of the Grandmothers Campaign to mark and celebrate!

In March, Grandmothers Campaign members from across British Columbia gathered in Vancouver for a BC Super Gathering. More than 350 grandmothers from 42 groups across BC participated! Similarly, this fall, grandmothers and grandothers will gather in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, and Toronto to mark the 10 Year Anniversary of the Grandmothers Campaign. Each gathering will start with an evening conversation between Stephen Lewis and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis reflecting on 10 years of the Campaign.* The following day, the gathering will feature a plenary with African grandmothers and will include workshops, networking, and other opportunities for Grandmothers Campaign members to gain knowledge and understanding and recommit to working in solidarity with African grandmothers.

Here is a list of the upcoming 10 Year Anniversary gatherings:

Alberta Gathering (Edmonton, AB), Sept. 23-24, 2016

Prairie Gathering (Winnipeg, MB), Sept. 24-25, 2016*

Atlantic Gathering (Halifax, NS), Sept. 30 – Oct. 1, 2016

Ontario Gathering (Toronto, ON), Oct. 1-2, 2016

Ottawa-Gatineau Gathering, TBD Jan-March, 2017

*the Prairie Gathering will be a two-day gathering (Sept. 24-25) with the conversation with Stephen and Ilana on the evening of the 24th.

If you would like to know more about the gathering in your area, please email us at and we’ll connect you with the organizers.

5. Thank You for a Fantastic Stride to Turn the Tide!

Social Media

A big THANK YOU for another successful Stride to Turn the Tide!

Your commitment to Stride – whether this is your first time or whether you are one of the original striders – is an inspiring testament to the strength of your connection to grandmothers in Africa, who walk with purpose every day.

During the 10 Year Anniversary of the Grandmothers Campaign, some grandmothers walked in groups of 10, and others walked 10 kms. And some did both!

Whatever the number, whatever the distance, it should make all of us proud to see Canadian grandmothers, grandothers, friends, and families rededicate themselves by striding in solidarity. Check out photos on our Facebook page from Strides all across the country!

6. July Monthly Reveal: Throw Back Thursdays on Facebook!

Thank you so much for sending in your grandmothers group profiles in honour of the 10 Year Anniversary of the Campaign. We love to read them and we’ll be posting them online, so keep them coming!

Each Thursday in August, we are going to post a call out on our Facebook page for “Throw Back Thursdays” photos. Each week will have a different theme and we invite you to post photos of your grandmothers group that fit that theme.

The themes:

We also want to share the themes with you in advance, so you have time to find (and scan, if need be) photos that your group would like to share in August. We know many of you have photos spanning five or ten years and it may take a moment or two to find the best ones!

Thursday, August 4: A photo of your first group members or a photo from your group’s first year together.

Thursday, August 11: A photo from your group’s favourite local event

Thursday, August 18: A photo from an event that was part of a national initiative (e.g. AfriGrand Caravan, Solidarity Tour, African Grandmothers Tribunal, Ask Her Talks, Stride to Turn the Tide, Dare to Dine, Cycle Tour, Good Words for Africa, or a regional gathering)

Thursday, August 25: A fun photo of your group taken within the last year.

How to participate:

Each week on Thursday we will post that week’s theme and remind you of the next week’s theme. There are three easy ways to share your photo.

1) Use your grandmothers group Facebook page. Write a post on your group’s Facebook page and tag the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. For example: “Here’s our #ThrowBackThursdays picture of the Glorious Grannies at our first Stride in 2013 with @SLFgrandmothers.”

2) Use your personal Facebook page. Comment on the Throw Back Thursdays post on the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign Facebook page and upload your photo. For example: “Here’s a picture of the Glorious Grannies at our first Stride in 2013.”

3) Send us your photo and caption. Email your photo and caption to and we will upload the photo for you.

Wondering how to connect with us on Facebook and see our posts?

“Like” us on Facebook so that you’ll see the Throw Back Thursdays posts and other updates from the Grandmothers Campaign in your newsfeed! You can also just visit our page here.

If you want to learn more about how to use Facebook and how to set up a page for your grandmothers group, check out our Facebook guide!

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