Last night’s event, which, I will admit, is not normally the kind of thing to which I’m drawn, since I am not very healing circle/rainstick/granola-oriented (it was women talking about various womenly things, from being flat-chested, to recovering from alcoholism, to miscarriages, to midwifery advocacy), and I didn’t fully understand why the event, which was called “Titty Talks”, wasn’t raising money for more ‘women-specific’ charities, like breast cancer (though, that’s another rant entirely), the La Leche League, or similar, rather than CARE Canada and The Wakefield Grannies.
But then I was reminded by a speaker that 75% of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African are women. That maternity wards are keeping track of that statistic. That since women are marginalised in many countries, they often have less power to keep themselves safe from the disease, but still hold traditional caretaker roles, hence organizations like The Wakefield Grannies.
The Grannies are part of a worldwide network of grandmothers who share support with women in African who are now raising their own grandchildren because their children have died of AIDS, a noble cause if there ever was one. You can find out more about this network on the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s website. The New African World Order (capitalisations mine) means that these women have new, previously untested challenges ahead of them to keep their families together. This is not easy. Even if they are tough as nails and determined as fuck, this network is vital to thousands of grandmothers.
It’s not just grandmothers either. One of my flatmates in Birmingham is from Zambia. After finishing her Masters, she moved back to her country to continue working for a development agency. As the maiden aunt in her family, who has a career outside the home and a good salary by Zambian standards, she has now adopted several of her cousins’ children because HIV/AIDS has taken their parents lives. The kids are very lucky, and very adored, but the situation is still, at its heart, devastating.
So, despite my day of chores which seem rather frivolous right now, this is all weighing heavily on my mind. I’m glad I went to the event; many of the storytellers were quiet extraordinary, but I think it’s the sense of community, not just for their village, but the world at large, that this group of women radiated was even greater.