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Book: Grandmothers Light Up the World


The grandmother's heart is the school where one prepares oneself for life.
                                                                                     - Senegalese proverb
book - Grabdmnother Power
Paola Gianturco's Grandmother Power documents an international movement of grandmothers fighting poverty, disease, illiteracy and human rights abuse to create a better future for their grandchildren.

This award-winning book features 225 colour photos and riveting stories about 120 activist grandmothers from 15 countries on five continents.

Here are some of their stories:

Grandmothers in Swaziland support as many as 12 or 15 AIDS orphans at a time. Siphiwe Hlophe, a 40-year-old mother of four, became one of the first women to publically acknowledge she had AIDS in 1999. Soon after, Hlophe and four other women launched Swaziland for Positive Living (SWAPOL), an organization for women living with AIDS. Their aim: to educate families about HIV/AIDS and help women deal with their illness. Today, 9,500 SWAPOL members manage households, tend cattle, run seed nurseries and arrange for their grandchildren's education.

Across Canada, 240 grandmother groups work untiringly to support grandmothers from 15 African countries to raise and care for HIV/AIDS orphans. In the past eight years, they have raised over $19 million. Gianturco is donating royalties from the book to the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.

In India, hundreds of rural women learn solar engineering to bring light to their villages. After spending six months at the Barefoot College in Tilonia village, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital of the western state of Rajasthan, the Grandmother Solar Engineers return to their communities to build and install solar lighting systems and assemble solar lanterns and water heaters.

Argentine grandmothers continue to search for their grandchildren, who were abducted after their parents were murdered during the nation's military dictatorship. In 1977, women looking for the babies of their "disappeared" daughters launched a group called Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo to fight for their return. To date, they have reclaimed 114 children.

In Senegal, the Grandmother Project and World Vision have teamed up to improve girls' health and well-being. The Girls' Holistic Development Project uses games, stories and dances to explore what is good and what is bad about cultural traditions. Grandmothers educate people about the consequences of child marriage, teen pregnancy and female genital mutilation. Some villages have decided to abandon these practices.

Four hundred Israeli grandmothers monitor military checkpoints throughout the West Bank to prevent human rights abuses against Palestinians. Everyday, thousands of Palestinians pass through checkpoints to get to school, doctors and jobs. The grandmothers publish daily reports of abuse on Machsomwatch and send summaries to journalists and members of parliament.

In Guatemala, grandmothers fight child abuse by creating community networks and promoting good parenting skills. Grandmothers in Jalapa operate a child abuse hotline. "Our symbol is the butterfly," one grandmother said. "We solve problems so children can fly."

This beautifully-crafted book is a moving testament to the power of older women to make change.