As a network of older women advocating for the human rights of African grandmothers, we have always been guided by the African philosophy of ubuntu. Ubuntu defines what it means to be truly human: we affirm our own humanity when we acknowledge the full humanity of others. The ubuntu principles of dignity, respect, empathy, caring, sharing, and compassion are more needed than ever in these unprecedented times.
As we listen to the daily news, it is hard to focus on anything but the wellbeing of our families, friends, and community. That’s what grandmothers do. But we also know, as life-long social activists, that this global crisis may present us with an opportunity to create a better, more just world.
In the words of Margaret Atwood:
"What’s been created during this absence of human touch is a nurturing of compassion. As we’ve learned from history, strife opens hearts. Let’s use this physical distancing, this debilitating worry and fear as a way to ignite a fresh start -- with one another and with our planet. Let’s think of it as a reset button. It gives us time to ponder what sort of world we want to be living in on the other side of this."
If we expect our voices to continue to be heard, we know that we will need to be sensitive to the issues that are preoccupying our government and the international community during this crisis. And we also understand that we will each choose our own way and level of engagement that best suits us during these trying times. We remind ourselves that we do what we can, when we can.
As we go forward, GRAN will be offering, through our Working Groups and communication tools, opportunities to learn, connect, and reflect on how COVID-19 is impacting our areas of focus and the lives of the grandmothers of sub-Saharan Africa. For those looking for actions to take, we will endeavor to ensure that our recommended advocacy actions are timely and sensitive to the COVID-19 crisis and, in particular, to how it is unfolding in sub-Saharan Africa.
As the pandemic and the response to it evolve, GRAN wants to be ready, when the time comes, to make a meaningful contribution to ensure that the global response and its aftermath will be guided by peace, justice and equality.
We will make this journey together.
Please stay well.
Janet Siddall and Pat Dolan