The word Gogo is a Zulu word meaning "grandmother" and the Zulus. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in South Africa.
The Gogo campaign was started in 2006 by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Known as the "Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign", it seeks to build solidarity, raise awareness and mobilize support in Canada for Africa's grandmothers," according to the Foundation's website.
So far 240 groups across Canada are part of the campaign, including the Burnaby gogos and the Royal City gogos. These groups have so far raised over $10 million for Africa's grandmothers who are usually teenagers whose parents had died from AIDS and who have to take care of their younger siblings.
One of these teenage "grandmothers", 19 year-old Thandeka Carol Motswa, from Swaziland, was recently a guest of the Burnaby gogos and Simon University's health sciences faculty and students. She was accompanied by Tsabile Simelane,56, also from Swaziland. Tsabile takes care of 30 orphans and coordinates HIV-AIDS support groups in Swaziland.
Karen Toovey is one of the Burnaby gogos an enthusiastic supporter of the cause.
“These women in Africa always say ‘don’t pity us, help us but don’t pity us. There’s so much we can learn from them. It just absolutely amazes me their resilience, their fortitude ... They are the backbone of the continent,” she told Burnaby Now.
A few streets away from the Burnaby gogos you find the Royal City gogos.
Janine Reid is one of them. One of the brains behind Turning the Tide, a textile exhibit that will be running from December 2-5, during which the city's gogos will also be selling cards, books and jewelry to raise money for the African gogos. This is the second time they are doing it. The first time, they raised $20,000.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of what these grandmothers are faced with as a result of the AIDS epidemic."
There are about 14 million orphans in Africa because their parents have died from AIDS, and many are in the care of grandparents. Not only do they have to care for the child, they have to care for a hurting child who has lost their parents,” Janine Reid told the New Westminster Leader
. Swaziland, a country in souther Africa where you find a lot of gogos due to the AIDS pandemic is ruled by a king Miswati the Third. His mother, Her Majesty Indlovukazi, the Queen Mother, has been very supportive in the work of the gogos in her country.
“It is imperative to mention that African grandmothers belong to the third world. As grandmothers of the third world, they are faced with various challenges that include poverty, neglect, abuse as well as HIV and AIDS,” she recently told Swazi Live.