Most of us know someone who has died of Aids or is afflicted with HIV; about 1.4 million Ugandans are living with HIV.
But in the middle of this crisis are grandmothers, wilting under the weight of caring for their grandchildren orphaned by the 34-year-old pandemic. Christina Nakate, 78, is caring for five grandchildren in her simple one-room brick house in Lwanyonyi village, Mukono district.
After burying two of her children who succumbed to the disease, she assumed care for their children, the eldest among them being a primary two pupil.
“We are forced to eat posho and beans every day so that I can save money to see the children through school. Each child pays Shs 30,000 for fees,” she tells The Observer.
She is among the hundreds of grandmothers receiving support to lighten their burden by the Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM). Now ROTOM has organized a special gathering, dubbed, ‘Uganda national grandmothers gathering’ to be held between October 5 and 7 at Resort Beach hotel in Entebbe.
A major result of the gathering will be formation and launch of a national consortium of grassroots organizations working with grandmothers. The role of the consortium will be to further the agenda of grandmothers in Uganda with focus on advocacy.
“Women have been disadvantaged and there is a historical injustice that persists where women cannot inherit property. There are more elderly women than men and feminisation of HIV is becoming clearer. The gathering will aim at bringing to the fore the struggles grandmothers go through to ensure the survival of their families and communities amidst the pandemic,” said Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi, the founder and executive director, ROTOM.
Additionally, the gathering will also amplify the socio-economic importance of grandmothers and bring the issues affecting grandmothers to the national agenda. Among the activities lined up for the gathering are: dialogues and workshops, launching of a book titled, Grandmothers; Africa’s Unsung Heroes, media talk shows and exhibitions, among others.
More than 500 grandmothers from Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa are expected to attend. Hon Janet Museveni will be the chief guest and guest speakers include global human rights activist Gracia Machel, also widow to former South African president Nelson Mandela, as well as the Nnaabagereka Sylvia Nagginda, Stephen Lewis, a former HIV/Aids African envoy to the UN and founder of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Canada and representatives from the business and religious community.
The event is being organized in partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation.