The intelligence, resourcefulness, creativity, skills, and resolve that grandmothers and older women bring to their communities is essential. The Uganda Grandmothers Consortium, formed in 2015 by six of the SLF’s community-based partner organizations who work with grandmothers, works to effect change locally, through training and mobilizing Grandmothers Advocacy Champions. The Consortium advocates for the inclusion of grandmothers’ issues and human rights in community-level and national policies and legislation. It provides resources and opportunities for ongoing advocacy that is by and for grandmothers, and represents critical new infrastructure to coordinate and document grandmothers’ lived experiences.
The Consortium works to effect change locally, through training and mobilizing Grandmothers Advocacy Champions across each district of Uganda. It also does this nationally, holding conversations with government officials about essential policies for older persons that need to be enacted, and service gaps that adversely affect grandmothers. To date, the group of 10 Grandmothers Advocacy Champions per district have had a presence at all meetings in their communities where decisions are being made that will impact grandmothers. They also attend key events across the country, and have amplified the voices of grandmothers in their communities to demand their human rights.
Their work has led to reforms in healthcare centres – some of which now provide priority care for older persons – as well as income support and agricultural support, through provision of seeds and fertilizers.
At the national level, the Consortium has met with the Prime Minister, senior government officials and representatives from other national organizations. Some successes (of which there are many) that came from these meetings include expanding financing for women-led income-generating activities by eliminating the age of eligibility (previously it was capped at 65), having grandmothers’ recommendations added to a national law to protect older people’s rights, and calling for better representation and service delivery for older persons.
The Consortium is currently working to understand the full impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on grandmothers so that they can advocate for relevant additional support and services.
Mobilization like this can be seen other countries as well, like in the Regional Council of Grandmothers that formed following the 2016 South Africa Grandmothers Gathering and the National Council of Grandmothers that formed on the heels of the 2018 Tanzania Grandmothers Gathering.
Five hundred grandmothers from every region in Uganda congregated in Entebbe for the first National Grandmothers Gathering. They came to discuss urgent issues, deliberate, and march. Together, they expressed their grief, outrage, resilience, and hope for the future. The grandmothers formulated their demands — directed at their government, the media, and the international and donor communities — culminating in a powerful call to action.
Stephen Lewis Foundation, Annual Review 2015