Peggy Edwards, Ottawa
Co-founder, National Advocacy Committee of Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (affiliated with the Stephen Lewis Foundation)
Call her an activist, an entrepreneur or even a “go-go” (Zulu for grandmother), she defies the usual stereotype of a woman in her 60s. For the past five years, Peggy Edwards, 63 (11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren), has helped raise more than $12-million; helped lay bricks for a three-room, hut-shaped home in Uganda so a grandmother could put a roof over five orphaned children; and pushed Parliament to change legislation so that it’s easier to send HIV/AIDs drugs to Africa.
Canadian grandmothers raise funds to help African grandmothers raise orphaned grandchildren whose mothers and fathers have died from HIV/AIDS.
“We cannot afford to lose a generation of Africans. African grandmothers want what any grandmother would want for their grandchildren – food, housing, education.”
“To raise at least $2-million a year in Canada and encourage the Canadian government to change legislation to make it easy to send antiviral drugs from Canada to Africa.”
“In 2006, my friend and I joined 100 grandmothers who were coming from all over Africa to share their stories about orphaned children and how Canadians could help.
“We met Mary, a 57-year-old grandmother from Kenya, who had seven grandchildren to care for and she told us of the difficulties she endured.
“That weekend in Toronto at George Brown College with my new ‘African sisters’ was a turning point for me”
“My own grandmother Peggy (I was named for her), although she died when my Mom was expecting me.
“She was a suffragette, an advocate for the rights of women and children, a pacifist, a businesswoman, a charmer, a great dancer and a role model for my mother and me.
“The day I heard a grandmother tell us that her daughter had given birth to an HIV/AIDS-positive girl. This little girl was six months old when her grandmother had to walk more than an hour to get to a clinic in Tanzania only to return with her granddaughter, who eventually died a few months later.”
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
“A couple of years ago when my two-year old grandchild was visiting me, he came down with a high fever. I panicked, then realized how privileged we are. I had baby aspirin, clean water and a pediatric clinic I could take him to in the morning.
“Most African grandmothers, who are sometimes raising eight to 10 orphaned grandchildren, have none of these things.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. Readers are invited to send suggestions for the Action Figure to firstname.lastname@example.org.