Testifying grandmothers

  • Thulisile Dladla Manzini Region, SwazilandThulisile is a dynamic and tireless advocate for the orphaned children in her community. This passion prompted her to join SWAPOL in 2001, and soon thereafter to become a board member. Thulisile runs a feeding programme for vulnerable children from her home, and goes out into the community as a trained caregiver to visit terminally ill community members. Thulisile is a grandmother living with HIV, who has lost many family members to AIDS, and is dedicated to supporting orphaned children—a lynchpin for survival of her community and its future.

  • Immaculate Nakyanzi Kkingo Subcounty, UgandaAfter Immaculate lost many family members to AIDS, she assumed care for multiple grandchildren. She has become a voice for change around land rights, specifically the threat of violence and lack of legal redress associated with property grabbing and the eviction of grandmothers caring for orphaned children.

  • Mama ‘F’ * ZimbabweMama ‘F’ is a stoic and inspiring hero, and a grandmother living with HIV. She was a nurse’s aid and a pharmacy assistant, who had a long battle trying to stand up to her abusive husband with no support from local authorities. When her husband divorced her she discovered Chiedza—a community project that came to provide her over time with psychosocial support, skills, school fees, clothing and food for the four orphaned children in her care. Mama ‘F’ now volunteers at Chiedza—her “second home,” working with families in her community to fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone to get tested and teaching people how to live positively and women to live free from violence.

    *We have withheld this grandmother’s name to protect her safety—speaking out about human rights in Zimbabwe at this time may pose a risk.

  • Zodwa Hilda Ndlovu Durban, South AfricaMama Zodwa is a grandmother and retired nurse. She is also a pillar of strength and an indefatigable force for good and survival in her community. Zodwa lost both of her children to AIDS in a heartbreaking series of events, and is HIV positive herself, proudly living positively and openly—encouraging dialogue in her community and facilitating the healing conversations in other families affected by HIV/AIDS that she didn’t get to have with her own children. Mama Zodwa runs a small soup kitchen for children orphaned by AIDS to visit before going to school, and runs an organization which engages in AIDS education, home-based care, and treatment adherence. She is devoted to ensuring that no one affected or infected has to live with stigma or the silence that goes with it, be infected because of lack of knowledge, or lose hope because there is no help or succor nearby. She is a beacon of light for so many.

  • Magret Ongwen Nyanza Region, KenyaMagret is the personification of courage. She refused to be inherited by another man when her husband and co-wives died of AIDS and left her with six orphaned children. She knew being inherited would expose her to HIV infection, and she had already protected herself at great personal cost. Magret has received strong support from PENAF and has become a role model to the women in her community. She is now the assistant chairperson of PENAF’s Uloma group, which has a membership of 200 grandmothers. A grandmother of deep conviction and resilience, she is a revolutionary agent of change.

  • Mariam Mulindwa Jinja District, UgandaMariam is an irrepressible leader and motivator in her community. She lost many family members to AIDS, and is the full-time caregiver for 24 orphaned and vulnerable children. In 2003 Mariam joined PEFO, and quickly became a mobilizer and inspiration for other grandmothers, coordinating World Health Day celebrations, and representing older persons on the sub-country land rights committee. In 2011 she was voted Miss Granny for Eastern Uganda—bringing visibility and authority to the role of grandmothers.

Expert witnesses

  • Robina Ssentongo Director, Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organization, UgandaRobina Ssentongo has worked with Kitovu Mobile since 1988. She originally joined the organization as a Nurse Counsellor, providing home-based care and support to AIDS patients. From 1990–1994 she served as the Coordinator of the Orphans and Family Support programmes, and she now oversees all operational and programmatic work, leading a team of 85 staff and 760 community workers and volunteers. Previous to her work with Kitovu Mobile, she worked as a midwife at Rubaga Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. A skilled facilitator and programme designer, Robina holds a Masters Degree in Health Services Management from Uganda Martyrs University and an undergraduate degree in Community Development from the University of South Africa.

  • Siphiwe Hlophe Founder & Director, Swaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL)Siphiwe Hlophe was one of the first women in Swaziland to publicly declare her HIV-positive status, and remains one of the country’s most prominent HIV/AIDS activists. In 2001, Siphiwe and four other HIV-positive women started SWAPOL. She has served on Swaziland’s National Emergency Response Committee on HIV/AIDS, and has been the Chairperson of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Swaziland and a member of the UN Secretary General’s Task Force on Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. Siphiwe was the recipient of the 2006 African Women’s Development Fund’s Stephen Lewis Fighting Spirit Award and the 2007 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression award, and she is featured in Stephanie Nolen’s book 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa.


  • Gloria Steinem Judge“Gloria Steinem has long been the voice of North American feminism, inspiring women across the globe with her wit, her generosity of vision, her tireless activism and inclusion of women from all walks of life. She has given us the gift of her brilliant insights and the memorable words with which to frame them—and has given voice to a movement that changed the world. She is not only a founder of Ms. Magazine and the author of many bestsellers, but is also an activist leader who has co-founded and worked with numerous critical feminist organizations, from Voters for Choice to the Ms. Foundation.”—Michele Landsberg, columnist, author and leading Canadian feminist

  • Joy Phumaphi JudgeJoy Phumaphi is a recognized leader in global health and human development. She is the Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). Previously, she held the positions of Vice President and Head of the Human Development Network at the World Bank, Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health Department at the World Health Organization, and Minister of Health of Botswana. Joy Phumaphi is a distinguished African American Institute Fellow. She has been a Commissioner in the UN Secretary General’s Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa and chaired the steering committee for the five-year evaluation of UNITAID. Joy Phumaphi co-chairs the independent Expert Review Group for Every Woman Every Child and chairs the Botswana African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships. She is a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Index Advisory Council, the Aspen Institute Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, and the Lephoi Centre in Botswana. She is also a board member of the Al Gore Foundation, and a trustee of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

  • Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond JudgeMary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is respected as a champion for the voices and rights of vulnerable children and youth. Her passion and effectiveness were recognized in 2006 when she was appointed BC’s first Representative for Children and Youth, as an independent officer of the Legislature. Ms. Turpel-Lafond is on leave from the Saskatchewan Provincial Court where she worked as a criminal law judge in youth and adult courts. In 2007 the Indigenous Bar Association awarded her the distinction of Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel. She has twice been named one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow’. Ms. Turpel-Lafond is an active member of Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree nation.

  • Theo Sowa JudgeTheo Sowa is the CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund. She has extensive experience as an independent advisor on a wide range of international and social development issues. Her work on women’s rights has a special focus on their promotion and protection in armed conflict situations, the strengthening of women-focused development programmes in Africa, and advocacy related to women and HIV/AIDS issues. She is a member of Stephen Lewis Foundation’s African Advisory Board and the board of the Graça Machel Trust. She also serves on the board of the Museum of AIDS in Africa; is a Trustee of Comic Relief and the Chair of its International Grant Making Committee; and is an Advisory Group member of the ‘Every Child a Reader’ literacy initiative. She holds a public appointment as a board member of the Charity Commission for England and Wales and was awarded a CBE in 2010.

Community-based organizations

The African grandmothers testifying at the Tribunal have all been supported by these tremendously effective grassroots organizations, in partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation and with financial support from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign and loyal supporters.

  • Swaziland Positive Living SwazilandSwaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL) was the first organization in Swaziland to address the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. They work primarily with women, orphans and child-headed households, with the understanding that these groups have suffered the most as the result of the pandemic. SWAPOL provides home-based care delivered through a mobile clinic and individual caregivers, supports child education and development, supports greater food security and nutrition through community training and the provision of seeds for community gardens, conducts livelihood projects, provides psychosocial counselling, and advocates against property grabbing.

  • Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organization UgandaKitovu Mobile AIDS Organization (Kitovu Mobile) focuses on supporting people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in their communities, enabling them to cope with its impact, and improve their quality of life. Kitovu Mobile works with its network of more than 750 volunteer community workers to provide care, support, prevention and capacity-building to poor rural communities with high rates of HIV/AIDS. Their programmes span a broad range of support, including: home-based care for people living with AIDS, grandmothers support, child protection and education, housing support, psychosocial support, self-help groups for women, and education for HIV/AIDS prevention and management.

  • Chiedza Child Care Centre ZimbabweChiedza Child Care Centre (Chiedza) works with children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in crowded urban areas. The organization provides children with a safe haven, and helps them access education, health, recreation, nutrition and psychosocial support. Chiedza runs a community home-based care programme for vulnerable and orphaned children, which is focused on meeting their caregivers’ immediate needs and empowering them through income-generating activities. Chiedza also runs a grandmothers’ support group of 15 tight-knit grandmothers, who refer to each other as ‘sisters.’

  • Siyaphambili South AfricaSiyaphambili is a support organization for people living with HIV/AIDS. They support orphans and vulnerable children living with grandparents; provide counselling and education on living positively with the virus; and work to encourage testing and to counter stigma and discrimination. Their mission is to decrease the number of new infections and to encourage those infected and affected by HIV to seek support, share their experiences and lessons, cope, and even thrive.

  • Pendeza Africa KenyaPendeza Africa (PENAF) is helping the grandmothers and youth of western Kenya combat the impact of AIDS in their local villages. The organization supports a wide range of community development and emergency relief initiatives, with a primary focus on women’s empowerment, orphan support, youth life skills training, revolving credit schemes and environmental protection. Since its inception in 2004, PENAF has been providing support for small scale entrepreneurship to vulnerable women and grandmothers, providing them with much needed income, and enabling them to provide for the children in their care and increase their self-esteem and confidence.

  • Phoebe Education Fund for AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children UgandaPhoebe Education Fund for AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children (PEFO) is dedicated to improving the welfare of grandmothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS in eastern and central Uganda. PEFO helps to send orphans to school, ensures families have adequate nutrition, encourages income-generating activities for caregivers, builds new houses for vulnerable rural grandmothers, and assists with health care and psychological counselling access. The organization helps orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers to achieve the self-esteem and self-reliance they need to become a resource for themselves and their communities.


  • David Suzuki Co-founder, David Suzuki FoundationDr. David Suzuki is a renowned scientist, broadcaster, and author. He is Companion to the Order of Canada, a recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for science, the UN Environment Program medal, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize, and UNEP’s Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at UBC and holds 28 honorary degrees. He is known to TV audiences as host of the CBC science and natural history series The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks and the acclaimed series It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. In 1990 he co-founded, with Dr. Tara Cullis, The David Suzuki Foundation to work with “government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based education, advocacy and policy work for the social change that today’s situation demands.” His written work includes more than 54 books.

  • Stephen Lewis Chair of the Board, Stephen Lewis FoundationStephen Lewis is a respected activist, humanitarian, and tireless advocate for the rights of women. He is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. He is an immediate past member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. He served as a Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. His work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades: he was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001–2006; from 1995 to 1999 he was Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF; and from 1984 through 1988 he was Canada’s Ambassador to the UN. From 1970–1978, Mr. Lewis was leader of the Ontario NDP, during which time he became leader of the Official Opposition. In 2003, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada. He holds 38 honorary degrees.

  • d’bi.young anitafrika Dubpoet, playwright & educatord’bi is an internationally celebrated Afrikan-Jamaican-Canadian dubpoet, monodramatist and educator. She is the published author of two collections of poetry, eight plays, two dubpoetry albums, and the sankofa trilogy. d’bi is the recipient of two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, the K.M. Hunter Theatre Award, Toronto Mayor’s Arts Council Award and the Canadian Poet of Honour Award. She is the Artistic Director of YEMOYA International Artist Residency and the originator of the personal development methodology called Sorplusi. d’bi is also the Manager of the Arts, Activism and AIDS Academy—a recent project of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.


  • Patsy George Member of the Board, Stephen Lewis FoundationPatsy George has fostered innovation and social change in communities across British Columbia and Canada for more than 50 years. She retired from public service in 2001, and her work in public welfare, child welfare, and community development—including as Director of Multiculturalism and Immigrant and Settlement Services BC. A few of the achievements of her long and illustrious career include organizing the Solidarity Coalition, working with the BC Federation of Labour to fight government cutbacks, serving on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and acting as a member of the Community Panel to Review Family and Children’s Services Legislation in British Columbia.