Creativity and Passion Unleashed in Older Women
While the later years of life may be seen by younger generations as a quiet time for pursuing hobbies and spending time with grandchildren, the Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) and similar organizations are turning that stereotype on its head by showing the world they are powerful activists and a strong political force for change! This network of grandmothers from across Canada are raising their voices and using their depth of expertise to advocate for a better world, especially for vulnerable children and for grandmothers across sub-Saharan Africa.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines the obligations of governments to promote and protect human rights for all individuals across the globe. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. However, despite the presence of international human rights law, there are individuals, such as older women in sub-Saharan Africa, whose human rights are denied or ignored. The rights of these women and the children they support are advocated for by groups such as the Grandmothers Advocacy Network. This Canadian network of volunteers work to advocate for the support, both Canadian and international, of policies and programs which address the needs and rights of African grandmothers and the families and grandchildren who depend upon them.
Grandmothers in need in sub-Saharan Africa
In the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, grandmothers are left to take care of their orphaned grandchildren. Instead of being able to fulfil the typical duties of a grandmother and enjoy the stretch of life where childcare is no longer a main priority, many sub-Saharan African grandmothers are once again finding themselves sustaining their families and communities. The Grandmother Advocacy Network targets four human rights in its work: The Right to Health, the Right to Education and Life-long Learning, the Right to Freedom from Violence, and the Right to Economic Security and Social Protection.
Protecting these human rights has a significant impact on the quality of life for African grandmothers, youth, and communities as well as address the issue of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Gender inequality and poverty makes women more susceptible to violence, whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual. The sexual violence against women in Sub-Saharan Africa can be seen as a cause and result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The spread of HIV/AIDs is exacerbated when people do not have access to affordable live-saving medicines. In addition, lack of access to education, especially for girls, means reduced economic opportunities and perpetuates gender inequality.
Furthermore, lack of social and economic support puts grandmothers caring for children at greater risk of extreme poverty as they care for and struggle to provide for their grandchildren. All this in their senior years when the physical requirements of work and child rearing can become more difficult.
Grandmothers taking action
The Grandmothers Advocacy Network takes action by advocating for policies and programs at the national and international level which address the needs of African grandmothers. These actions include providing resources (“Older Women Count!”), meeting with members of parliament and government officials, as well as writing letters to the media, the Prime Minister, and members of the cabinet, as well as creating petitions and rallying peacefully to draw attention to the issues and human rights violations older women and youth are facing in Sub-Saharan Africa.
There are many ways in which the Grandmothers Advocacy Network has made a difference. They have advocated for the Canadian government to increase their contribution to the Global Fund which fights diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. They advocate for global access to a COVID-19 vaccine, and have raised awareness about the UNiTE campaign, which in 2019 was centered around gender-based violence, through community based activities. They have activism campaigns on Access to Medicines, fighting Tuberculosis, Climate Change, Child and Forced Marriage, and Violence Against Women and supporting Education of Women and Girls. They even have Readers’ Theatre Plays on their website as content to help to educate groups on the issues facing grandmothers and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
You can help too!
It is well understood by the members of the Grandmothers Advocacy Network that older women and the children they are responsible for deserve to be treated with respect and live a life where their human rights are met. Here is an example of grandmothers taking positive action, and that can inspire us all! There are many ways that you can support the Grandmothers Advocacy Network. You may wish to sign up to receive information on current actions and campaigns, follow their social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter), donate money, read about their goals and advocacy issues on their website, or join a working group in order to contribute your skills, interests, and passions. Thanks GRAN, you are making a difference and we appreciate your efforts!
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