The Grandmother Power movement is a little known but growing phenomenon: activist groups of grandmothers coming together, saying, “This is not the world we want for our grandchildren!” and making positive change.
I count myself blessed to have had such wonderful older women as a strong influence over my life. Ever since I was a little girl, my collective grandmothers, whether through blood relation or the many plastic aunties I seemed to collect, I have been surrounded by the love and incredible power of a generation of women who have endured and seen so much more than our generation have. Grandmother Power speaks both to the power of grandmothers and of all women. Whether or not they have children or grandchildren, they are our collective grandmothers.
My own grandmothers, lovingly known as Granny and Nana, filled my years with wonderful memories and I’m all the better for the guidance I received from them. They are my heroes.
My darling Nana passed away a number of years ago. She was feisty and a risk taker. She endured years in WW2 where her husband was stationed in Burma, while she raised their eldest daughter alone. She drove a taxi (unlicensed!) during the war. She was on a tug of war team in her younger years. She was a story-teller, and when she sang it felt like the birds all stopped to listen. She taught me that patience is a virtue, that it takes more than a couple of knocks to bring a strong woman down, and that most things can be solved by something to eat, a cuddle or a good belly laugh.
My Granny is another example of a mighty woman. When I’d visit her while growing up, I used to think that my Granny was famous – it seemed like everyone in the town knew her! She is loved by many, and I fully acknowledge that while she’s my Granny, she’s adopted auntie to many, so I must share her! My Granny was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer when she was 20 years old. She was a newly wed and ready to start her life with the love of her life, when the evils of cancer dealt this blow. She underwent surgery and had one of her legs amputated. In spite of this, the was given 6 months to live. Over 60 years later, she has defied all predictions from the doctors of the day – having a family and grand children, learning to drive, maintaining her independence for as long as possible into her winter years. My Granny has taught me that no matter what the odds are, there’s always a chance you will beat them. She’s taught me the importance of believing in something, of treasuring your friendships, and how very important it is to not take yourself too seriously!
As a younger woman in my thirties, I keenly feel the need for the healing, grounding and inspiring presence of vocal older woman in our public sphere. We need your voices. And we need your visibility. In world when we see so many botoxed, airbrushed, youthful images everywhere we turn, seeing your faces heals us. – Tara Mohr
Across the world, Grandmother’s are bringing their wisdom, their strength and their experience to better the lives of their grandchildren and the others of the younger generation that they come into contact with. They are not only working within their own smaller communities, but they are collaborating, sharing, and making a huge difference.
Grandmothers are not just raising grandchildren, they are collaborating effectively for education, health, the environment, and justice—forming grandmother groups in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. An unheralded international grandmothers’ movement is underway! – Paola Gianturco
South Africa has 1.9 million AIDS orphans. If they lived in a single city, it would be size of Houston. The AIDS pandemic has decimated their parents’ generation.
Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS in Khayelitsha, South Africa, is run by and for grandmothers. Eighty percent of GAPA grandmothers care for AIDS orphans, 30% care for another relative with AIDS, and 15% are HIV positive themselves. Despite the health problems, their motto proclaims, “Together We are Strong!”
The grandmothers planted a community garden so they can feed the children. They welcome the youngsters when school gets out and serve lunch. Some supervise the playground. Others help with homework. They have made it possible for their grandchildren to be safe after school in this violent township, to enjoy their friends and have fun.
GAPA grandmothers also help each other. They participate in weekly support groups and teach each other crafts. (One grandmother learned to make hats: “Hats were the end of poverty in my house. People call me Hats Mama!”)
A grandmother of five, laughs, “Whatever comes, we are ready. We’ve even got a lady who comes and exercises us. Fitness for grandmothers. You would be very much amazed to see us jumping in our tights. We dance like the little ones.”GAPA sets an example for other countries. There are 24 grandmother groups near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which GAPA helped launch. GAPA founder Kathleen Brodrick is unequivocal: “Older people hold the future of Africa.” (From Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon by Paola Gianturco, published by powerHouse Books.) More Grandmother Power stories can be found here!