Ida Numbeya Mukuka from Zambia, Africa knows all too well the impact HIV-AIDS has had on people in her home continent.
The 48-year-old woman’s husband and brother are were both killed by HIV-AIDS. She now works with the Stephen Lewis Foundation to raise awareness and prevent the disease in Africa.
Mukuka was the keynote speaker at GrammaLink-Africa’s provincial Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign event, Moving Forward With Strength, in Red Deer on Saturday.
“Before we used to cry because we’d feel hopeless, but now, knowing there are people who believe in you, makes me feel proud,” said Mukuka, senior advisor to the campaign.
The campaign, started by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 2006, aims to help women in Africa taking care of their grandchildren whose parents died from HIV or AIDS.
“Over 30 million people have died of AIDS in Africa and we have millions of orphans left behind,” said Mukuka. “We definitely need to support these grandmothers to make sure the children go to school and make sure they have food.”
Mukuka has been an HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention representative for the foundation for nine years. Mukuka has travelled to many countries in Africa to discuss the disease.
Members of the 16 Grandmothers groups in Alberta came to GrammaLink-Africa’s event on Friday and Saturday.
“Seeing all these people here gives me a lot of happiness.
“The African grandmothers will never forget they lost their children and they will have to live with it. I will never forget I lost my brother and my husband to AIDS. But that pain has been lessened by the people here,” Mukuka said.
Shirley Challoner, GrammaLink-Africa co-chair, said it was an honour to have Mukuka speak at the event.
“It’s a reaffirmation for the kind of work we’ve been doing for the last 10 years,” said Challoner. “As we move forward into the next 10 years we need to have that sense of urgency that we cannot rest until our African grandmothers can rest.”
Since being founded in 2008, the Red Deer Grandmothers group has raised nearly $200,000. The campaign has raised about $25 million nationwide.