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Granny/‘Gogo’ Power: A Movement Powered by Love

13731816_10154285858933818_3423979166758553580_o-jpgImage courtesy of Alexis MacDonald for The Stephen Lewis Foundation

We know that investing in women produces the most positive and long-lasting outcomes for global communities. From initiatives investing in women entrepreneurs and teaching girls how to code to re-introducing a Spice Girls hit as the international anthem of female empowerment, movements focused on women and girls are finally gaining global attention. However, many of these movements are forgetting one key female population — grandmothers, or gogos as they call them in South Africa. They’re an untapped source of wisdom and have the know-how to tackle some of our world’s most pressing issues like the HIV epidemic.

13698028_10154274347723818_6942678850816232742_o-edit Image courtesy of Alexis MacDonald for The Stephen Lewis Foundation

Grandmothers are at the center of the response to the AIDS epidemic so we’re committed to integrating grandmothers into our strategy to end AIDS. In South Africa alone, over 2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. After losing their children to AIDS, grandmothers often become the sole providers for their grandchildren. To address this issue on a national level, together with our partner, the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), we hosted a South African Grandmothers Gathering at the Blue Roof in July at the beginning of the International AIDS Conference in Durban. This gathering became a platform for over 300 grandmothers and representatives from local grassroots organizations to connect and advance their organizing efforts to secure proper housing, pensions, food security and healthcare. The participants and 2,000 additional grandmothers then marched together through the streets of Durban declaring that, “As mothers and grandmothers, we stand here today as the guardians of our country’s future… We will not give up the fight against HIV/AIDS and we will never give up because this grandmothers’ movement is powered by love.”

But empowering grannies isn’t the only thing the Stephen Lewis Foundation is doing. Since 2005, Keep a Child Alive (KCA) has worked with SLF to ensure that children and their family members have access to comprehensive, dignified HIV care and treatment. Together, we built KCA’s first wholly owned and operated program called the Blue Roof in Kwazulu Natal, Durban where the HIV prevalence rate is 37.4%, the highest in the world. In addition to HIV treatment, Blue Roof provides truly holistic care by incorporating nutritional support, youth programs, tuberculosis and cervical cancer screening, and linkages to substance abuse counseling. By participating in outreach and engagement with groups throughout its surrounding community, the Blue Roof has become an integral part of Kwazulu Natal. In 2015 alone, over 2,877 people living with HIV, received dignified, high-quality HIV treatment and care at the Blue Roof.

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This past July, we renewed our partnership with SLF to focus attention and provide new services to the needs of children and young people affected by HIV at Blue Roof. With innovative strategies and our recent collaboration with a local NGO, Zoë-Life, we’re transforming the clinic into a model center that will reach more children and young people than ever before. In the coming months, we’ll also incorporate career development, more community initiatives and sexual education into the existing model at Blue Roof, which will empower a whole community of young people to lead stronger and healthier lives.

So whether it’s engaging grandmothers or strengthening a program to provide more critical services, SLF is a partner we’re proud to have with us in the fight against AIDS. We are so thankful for all of SLF’s contributions and are excited about what we can achieve in the future.