When I came across this event on my course unions' website, I jumped on the opportunity mostly because I am already missing the motherland, my home "country" of Africa, and I felt that to attend this event would give me 2 hours to dwell in the little pieces of home through the way the grannies would be dressed as well as their familiar accents and so, on Friday the 20 of October, my school hosted Heart to Heart Conversations with African Grandmothers with special guests (all grandmothers): Eunice Mangwane of Keisknamma Trust in South Africa as well as, Mariam Melinda and Margret Waziko of the Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PEFO) in Uganda.
Listening to their life stories was just as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking. The event was intended to be a tribute to grandmothers and the motherly role they have to take on when their own children pass away from AIDS. All three of the African grandmothers had their own personal and heartbreaking stories to do with the strenuous everyday tasks and sacrifices they had to make now that they had the responsibility of mothering their grandchildren. One of the grandmothers said she had lost 5 of her children to AIDS- no parent should have to bury their own offspring.
Our guests reside in the rural areas of their home countries and tell us of how, (even in this 2017), HIV/AIDS is still a taboo and when an AIDS- related death befalls a family, they are subsequently shunned and marginalized. In most rural parts of Africa, to have HIV/AIDS is seen as witchcraft or punishment from ones ancestors and that is fact enough for other people within the community to keep away from those affected. The roles the grandmothers have to take on include finding work (bear in mind most of them are past the ideal retirement age) in order to earn money to support their grandchildren in terms of food, a place to stay and school materials.
After they had shared with the audience their stories, they emphasize how important it was for representation within their local and national governments because that is just a voice we never hear. Let's be real, we never hear that voice because we don't think of that voice. There is representation of groups like women and the youth, but how about our grandmothers? The hosts of the event opened the floor before closing for anyone who had anything to say, and it was interesting to learn that this role taken on by grandmothers is nothing uncommon, I counted about four to five people in this fairly small audience that took the floor and shared with us their own similar stories and how they had been raised by their grandmothers due to various circumstances.
If you have a moment, check out the clickable links above.