by Dianne Holland
An Ottawa grandmothers’ group, the One World Grannies, will merge with a dozen other grandmother groups from this region to stage The GRAND Market at Lansdowne Park’s Aberdeen Pavilion on Sunday, October 22.
This year’s version of the market will feature an abundance of new and gently used items, many at rock-bottom prices. Be prepared for tables heaped with crafts, gifts, women’s clothing and accessories, children’s clothing, toys and books, fabric remnants, treasures for the home and more. Last year this GRAND event sent $30,000 to the Stephen Lewis Foundation earmarked for African grandmothers and children in their care.
Why are these Ottawa grandmothers so dedicated? One reason is the deeply entrenched discriminatory attitudes toward women in sub-Saharan Africa, in families and society including police services and the courts. The powerlessness of girls and women makes them vulnerable to domestic sexual abuse, which is one of the leading causes of HIV/AIDS infection. When brave enough to reveal their HIV-positive condition, women are frequently accused of infecting their husbands. They may endure physical abuse and even abandonment.
Sexual abuse is just one of the adversities encountered. Women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa also face early and forced marriage, lack of access to education and, when they become grandmothers often without education and financial resources, raising millions of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. Women in their senior years are sometimes caring for as many as 10 to 15 children in their homes. Despite immense challenges, they display astonishing reserves of love, courage and emotional resilience, even while grieving the loss of their own adult children.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation brought grandmothers across Canada together in 2006 to organize in solidarity with their African counterparts, giving birth to the Grandmothers Campaign and some 240 determined grandmother groups across the country.
A decade later, and with $24 million raised, thousands of grandmothers and grand-others in Canada remain committed to the vow they made: “We will not rest until they can rest.” The money the grandmothers raise is invested in grassroots community-based organizations that provide food, educational supplies, uniforms and school fees, medical care, HIV counselling and testing, adequate housing and bedding, counselling and support groups, home visits and much more.
Dianne Holland is a resident of the Glebe and a member of the One World Grannies. If you want to learn more about the Grandmothers’ Campaign or perhaps join a grandmothers’ group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GRAND Market 2017,
Sunday, October 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Aberdeen Pavilion, Lansdowne Park
Admission is free.