Powered by Love: A Grandmothers’ Movement to End AIDS in Africa by Joanna Henry and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis ($35 Goose Lane Publishing) Read our review!

Powered by Love: A Grandmothers’ Movement to End AIDS in Africa
by Joanna Henry and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis
($35 Goose Lane Publishing)

Powered by Love: A Grandmothers’ Movement to End AIDS in Africa

“Perhaps if I have any riches it is the love inside me” ~  Nasilia (Malawi)

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (affiliated with the Stephen Lewis Foundation) is the story of a grassroots movement born from a deep concern on the part of Canadian grandmothers (and grandothers) to connect with and support their African counterparts who were left raising their grandchildren as a result of the devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Powered by Love relates this journey for the most part with quotations from African and Canadian grandmothers.  Their words, as well as the rich and brilliant colour of the photographs, reflect the depth of joy that all these grandmothers share through their interaction.

By 2009, the number of children who had lost one or both parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic had reached 12.3 million in sub-Saharan Africa.  Stephen Lewis, as the UN Special Envoy to Africa, saw the brutal results: families and futures destroyed. He also saw that it was the local grandmothers who stepped up to care for their orphaned grandchildren.

Stephen Lewis spoke across Canada about what he had seen and the response from the Canadian grandmothers who heard him was to determine to do something about it.  The eventual result was the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, an initiative that has been bringing Canadian and African grandmothers together ever since.

The book includes portraits of grandmothers on both sides of the ocean and gives a absorbing picture of the founding and the power of the grandmothers’ movement.

The first Gathering of Grandmothers in Toronto in 2006 (coinciding with the 16th annual HIV/Aids Conference) celebrated the launch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.  One hundred African grandmothers from 11 countries joined 200 Canadians from across the country, who bore witness to their stories of sadness and loss, but also to their strength and joy.

After the conference, the Canadian grandmothers mobilized to raise funds, as well as awareness, and build solidarity with the African grandmothers.  They held garage sales, kitchen parties, theatre performances, concerts, and antique sales.  They wrote cookbooks, created calendars, and held home and garden tours.

The resulting funds contributed to grassroots African programs in areas such as food production, housing, income generating, education, healthcare and protection from violence.  Grandmothers began participating in training of many types including financial, gardening, and the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

In 10 years, the African grandmothers have moved from living lives of isolated survival to collective action.  They are now seeking to have their voices heard throughout their countries.

All of the grandmothers often remark on their almost indescribable feeling of kinship, usually with women they will never meet. Powered by Love reflects the depth of this feeling.  Highly recommended.