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Saturday, 21 October 2017 05:29

Swift Current group hosting launch Oct. 25 for book about in international grandmothers movement against AIDS

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Two African grandmothers will be among the guest speakers at a book launch in Swift Current for a new book about grandmothers across the African continent who raised children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.


Swift Current will be one of only three venues in Saskatchewan for this national book tour for the release of “Powered by Love: A Grandmothers' Movement to End AIDS in Africa”. The event will take place on Oct. 25 from 7-9 p.m. at the Swift Current Branch Library. It is hosted by a local group, Grandmothers and Grandothers. Colleen MacBean, a founding member of the group, said they are excited to be hosting one of the launch events for this book tour.
“Especially because these African grandmothers are part of the tour, she noted. “That's going to be a really exciting part of it, because these women are quite amazing.”
The AIDS pandemic has devastated families and communities across the African continent, and more than 13.3 million children under the age of 17 have been orphaned by the disease. Grandmothers carry a heavy burden in caring for these children, for example in countries across southern Africa an estimated 40 to 60 per cent of orphans live in grandmother-headed households.
This book tells the stories of these women in their own voice and also highlights the role of the grandmother movement in Canada to provide support to African grandmothers through the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
“The Stephen Lewis Foundation is a grassroots organization working with African grandmothers who are raising children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic,” MacBean said.
“So for about 10 years now this grandmothers campaign in Canada has been a wing under the Stephen Lewis Foundation, raising funds and raising awareness about the situation in Africa.”
She attended the Stephen Lewis Foundation's first grandmother gathering in Toronto in August 2006, which was also attended by African grandmothers.
“To hear some of the stories of the grandmothers was amazing,” she said. “Obviously they're grandmothers, so they're not young women. ... I heard people say they had as many as 10 children they were looking after, because the disease was so devastating to families.”
That event inspired MacBean to become involved with the grandmother movement and she helped to start a group in Swift Current.
“There are grandmother groups right across the country, and this grandmothers campaign has raised over $25 million for the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation,” she said.
“So it turned into quite a big deal actually. Now that they're this far down the road, they're trying to keep the momentum going by things like this book and bringing over on occasion some of the African grandmothers.”
The group in Swift Current was originally called Grandmothers for Change, but the members decided to change the name to Grandmothers and Grandothers as a way to involve more people in their fundraising efforts.
The group currently has 12 members.
“We're just a small group, but we welcome anybody who'd like to work with us,” she said. “We usually during the course of the year do a couple of fundraisers. ... We'll speak to service clubs or church groups or anybody that's interested in funding or learn more about us.”
There will be a number of guest speakers at the book launch in Swift Current. The two grandmothers – Meaza Asfaw Dubie and Asnakech Mekbib Fantaye – are from the Negem Lela Ken New HIV Positive Women Support Organization in Ethiopia.
They are accompanied by this organization's program manager, Bayessa Gojjam. The book's author, Joanna Henry, and Stephen Lewis Foundation staff member Megan Karges will also be present at the event.
“The author and her photographer visited about eight countries, talking with grandmothers, and the book is telling the stories that they've heard from these grandmothers,” MacBean said. “Apparently there are wonderful pictures in the book.”
The book will be available for sale at the launch. All royalties from book sales will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support organizations run by and for African grandmothers who are raising children orphaned by AIDS.
The Oct. 25 book launch at the Swift Current Branch Library is a free event and everyone is welcome to attend.
For more information about the book launch or the activities of Grandmothers and Grandothers in Swift Current, contact Colleen MacBean at 306-773-7386 or 306-741-1392.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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