Two brave women from Swaziland, Africa shared their experiences and challenges at the Red Deer Lodge on Monday.
Hosted by GrammaLink–Africa, the AfriGrand Caravan, a cross-country tour with young African women orphaned by AIDS and grandmothers faced with an orphan care crisis, stopped in Red Deer to share their stories.
Grandmother Tsabile Victoria Simelane and her granddaughter Thandeka Carol Motswa came to represent Swaziland Positive Living, (SWAPOL) a national grassroots organization advocating for the rights and recognition of people affected by HIV and AIDS in Swaziland, Africa.
Simelane, 56, takes care of 30 orphans in her community and as the chairperson of her HIV/AIDS support group she works closely with SWAPOL’s mobile clinic outreach team and conducts visits to people who are affected.
“We are so grateful to come to Canada to share our experiences and challenges we have in the sub-Saharan,” said Simelane.
Simelane lost her sister to the virus and is now taking care of her six grandchildren in her own home, two of which are HIV positive.
“Our government has tried, but it is not enough,” said Simelane. “In my community I have experienced a lot of pain in seeing people die unnecessarily.”
Granddaughter Motswa lost her mother to AIDS in 2003 when she was 12-years-old, and three days later she lost her father in an accident.
Now 19, she is the head of her household after dropping out of school to take care for her two younger brothers and sister.
The AfriGrand Caravan is part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and creates an opportunity for African grandmothers and granddaughters to tell their stories in dealing with the AIDS virus.
In 2001, the first international African Grandmothers’ Gathering brought nearly 500 African grandmothers together to share their experiences.
GrammaLink-Africa is one of over 220 grandmother groups that have involved about 5000 people across Canada supporting the Grandmother campaign.
“It is so difficult to reach each and everyone affected, so my plea to you is to give support to the grandmothers, the rotaries, and all those business people who are putting a hand across Africa,” said Simelane.