Putting a Spotlight on Trailblazing Grandmother Activists Around the World
As a photojournalist working in Africa in 2006, I met so many grandmothers who were raising grandchildren who had been orphaned by AIDS that I left thinking, "The future of the African continent rests in the hands of the grandmothers!" This inspired me to do research on what grandmothers were doing in other places... and I discovered an emerging international grandmother's movement.
Groups of activist grandmothers all over the globe, determined to create a better future for their grandchildren, are tackling a wide range of social, economic and political justice issues: running literacy programs, child abuse hot lines, bringing solar electricity to dark villages, and fighting against human rights abuses. Today's grandmothers are younger, better educated, healthier and more numerous than they have ever been—and they are energetically and effectively changing the world. Grandmothers are a powerful resource for important social change... but not many people know about the activists, much less a whole movement of them. To share what I've learned, I created a book in 2012 called Grandmother Power, and I've shared rich stories and photos of grandmothers fighting for a better future for their grandchildren on my website. This inspired the new traveling museum exhibit just launched this year, designed by Genesis Inc.
In the exhibit, the grandmothers symbolize family and community, which is represented on columns. There's also an interactive station that allows visitors to add stories about their own grandmothers, which will travel with the exhibit. To further build community around the concept of grandmothers, the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan has a full schedule of activities on the docket... everything from grandchildren shadowing their volunteer grandmothers so they can learn about community service, to Grandmother "Power Lunches" with prominent grandmother speakers.
And, just to give you an idea of the amazing stories featured in the exhibit, here are some highlights...
After their dictatorship suppressed the freedom to read for years, Argentine grandmothers are bringing the gift of reading to a new generation. Through the “Storytelling Grandmothers” program, grandmothers across Argentina are helping to re-engage children with books.
In India, grandmothers learned solar engineering and brought electricity to their villages. Their work was so effective that the United Nations began sending grandmothers from other countries to learn from them.
The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, all healers and shamans, hold public meetings where each grandmother conducts a ceremony according to her own tradition, to heal the environment and pray for peace.
In Senegal, grandmothers are forging a healthier future for the women and children in their communities. Through education, they are working to end the practice of female genital mutilation, a deep-rooted cultural tradition.
Thai grandmothers leaned on the ancient tradition of cotton weaving to help fight the negative impacts of mining. By donating part of their wages, they helped put an end to industrial pollution in their villages.
Because the Grandmother Movement in the U.S. is not as developed as it is in other countries, I’m hoping that the book and exhibit will inspire American grandmothers to start, join, and support activist grandmother groups that will tackle important issues in their own communities.
If you'd like to participate or you know a grandmother that should, you can:
1. Support or join an existing grandmother activist group, or create your own at Global Grandmother Power.
2. Check out the traveling exhibit.
This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.
What if Simply Playing Soccer Could Power a Whole Village? Uncharted Play's Soccket balls ingeniously turn kinetic energy into electric current.
Next Time You're at a Pretentious Exhibition, Just Change It Güvenç Özel shows how a digital solution can augment a physical problem.
A Mosaic Shines in Philly A intimate conversation with a fixture of the Philadelphia art world.
Zaha Hadid Had a Busier Week Than You Did A posh homeware line, a math-inspired museum wing, and a blossom-shaped apartment building
London Skaters Fought Gentrification, and Won A coalition of skateboard enthusiasts just saved the birthplace of British skate culture from a future as a shopping center.
“What I Would Like to See is More Bystanders Stepping in to Take Action” The Everyday Sexism Project chronicles more than 80,000 instances of sexism around the world, and it’s making a big policy impact.
It's Not Where You're Going, It's How you Get There The future of transportation is now A look at futuristic forms of transportation that have become reality.
Inside the Minds of 11-Year Olds From Around the World A new documentary probes the special moral clarity of 11-year old children.
This Underwater Museum is Bringing a Coral Reef to Life A collaborative effort spurs a marine project off the coast of Egypt.
“French Navy” and Other Suggestions for Scotland’s New National Anthem EDM, art rock, indie ballads … let’s pretend it’s all on the table if Scotland votes for independence.
How a 17th Century Bible is Helping to Revive a Native-American Language One human language may die every 14 days, but the ancenstral tongue of M.I.T.-trained linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird won't be one of them.
Thank You For Caffeinating The dirty secret behind your favorite soft drink America’s $75 billion love affair with soft drinks has less to do with flavor than a specific, notorious ingredient.