We thought we knew what was happening in Africa when the AIDS pandemic raged across the continent, sweeping away 35 million lives. But we never knew it the way this book reveals it, in the shockingly intimate voices of the grandmothers who stepped in to raise their orphaned grandchildren when no one else was left alive.
A dynamic movement of grandmothers rallied in response. Starting in Canada and spreading across the globe, it now encompasses thousands of grandmothers on several continents. Together, resolute grandmothers in Africa and around the world are reclaiming hope and courageously saving lives. Their voices will leap straight into your heart. Their unguarded faces, in portraits that glow with character, pain and humour, will captivate you.
In 2006, the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched a campaign to engage Canadian grandmothers to support African sisters. The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, now a movement 10,000 strong, has raised over $25 million that has gone directly into the hands of African grandmothers and the grassroots organizations run by and for them at the frontlines of the AIDS pandemic.
Powered by Love reveals the compelling journey of these indomitable women and a movement that now reaches around the globe, sharing their story in their own words.
The process of writing this book began long before a word was put on paper. The reason for that was a deep commitment to the necessity of giving voice to African and Canadian grandmothers themselves to tell their own stories in their own words. Equally strong an imperative was the decision to avoid narrative that could be better expressed by the grandmothers.
Let’s talk about what this book is not, for a moment… It is not one grandmother’s story, it is not a series of profiles, nor is it a story about community-based organizations, and it is not a definitive text on the study of grandmothers in Africa or in Canada. This is the story of a movement on two continents and it is told by a collective. The purpose of this book is to give voice to thousands of grandmothers with whom the Stephen Lewis Foundation has worked over a decade, to share their experiences and expertise – to combat the AIDS pandemic both at the front lines and in a solidarity movement in Canada.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation is situated in this story in a very particular way, and we wrote this book with the following in mind: on the one hand, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has worked closely with Canadian grandmothers to build a campaign that they, in turn, built into a social movement, and on the other hand, we have spent a decade working with African community-based organizations (CBOs) run by and for grandmothers. We strive, in this work, to recognize the disparity of power in our role as ‘donor’ and to take our lead from the African grandmothers and CBOs to ensure that, as much as possible, they are able to articulate their needs, their expertise, vision and perspective. We depended upon the relationships we have engaged in and developed over the past decade, to build an iterative process that would allow us to work with the grandmothers to tell a story that spans the realities and experiences of communities, countries and continents.
The integrity of the process of making this book has been paramount, therefore. Interviews were conducted with thousands of grandmothers over a year, in eight sub-Saharan African countries and across Canada. But the conversations with grandmothers, their support organizations and the grandmothers groups lasted another four years as we communicated back and forth, checking that every quote, every photo, every use or withholding of a name – whatever it took – was done to ensure that what appears in the book are the words and images that the grandmothers wanted to share.
The design of the book was also deliberate – ensuring that the grandmothers’ voices were in a bolder, more authoritative font, and that the linking narrative was less emphasized visually. The quotes are not there to support an author’s thesis, the quotes ARE the authoritative text.
Throughout this entire process, we were met with astonishing honesty, intimacy, and no small measure of humour. In all of our discussions, the most striking and inspiring truth that the grandmothers brought to the fore is that this movement is powered by love: unabashed, unsentimental, unapologetic, and inspirationally potent love.