Over 18 million children have lost one or more parent from AIDS worldwide. But the vast majority of these children, over 80 per cent, are from Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Go Go Grannies are a group of women who have stepped in to care for this lost generation. 

In July, Mark Hancock, national president of CUPE, attended the first ever South African gathering of the Go Go Grannies, coinciding with the 2016 World AIDS Conference in Durban. Hancock was part of a group invited by Stephen Lewis, whose foundation supports the Go Go Grannies, to see first-hand the challenges they are facing.

“It was a life-changing experience, plain and simple,” said Hancock, who spent three days hearing the stories and experiences of the 300 Go Go Grannies attending the gathering. 

“The stories were heartbreaking. I heard stories of grannies leaving their villages at 4:00 in the morning to line up for AIDS medication or to get their tiny pittance of support from the government, only to be robbed. I heard how AIDS deaths, after many years of decline, are now on the rise again,” recounted Hancock. “Throughout all of this, the grannies’ emotions swung wildly – one moment there was not a dry eye in the room and the next, everyone was up singing and dancing!”

The conference culminated with a march to the World AIDS Conference centre to present the South Africa Grandmothers Statement – a Charter of Rights for the grandmothers and the children they care for.  

“The Go Go’s are starting to stand up for their rights and health. This conference was a great demonstration of how these elders advocate – both for their rights and for those in their care. I know that these strong women who have faced extraordinary challenges will be triumphant,” said Hancock. 

To learn more about the Go Go Grannies, visit stephenlewisfoundation.org