In 2003, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis joined with her father, Stephen Lewis, to establish a Foundation that would work directly with grassroots organizations in sub-Saharan Africa in their struggle to turn the tide of AIDS. The Stephen Lewis Foundation has to date funded over 1100 initiatives, partnering with over 300 community-based organizations in 15 countries.
Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is a labour and human rights lawyer. Prior to the creation of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Ilana spent eight years at the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), working to strengthen the UN’s implementation of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Ilana assisted grassroots women’s groups around the world to use human rights conventions in their battles against gender violence. She also co-created a programme to bring grassroots activists into the CEDAW Committee to speak directly to their experiences, a practice so powerful that it is now integrated into CEDAW’s official proceedings. Ilana was instrumental in launching the United Nation’s Trust Fund on Violence Against Women.
In 2009, Ilana received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for International Development and was named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada in 2012.
The Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers Campaign
On March 7, 2006, the foundation launched the “Grandmothers to Grandmothers” campaign to encourage grandmothers in Canada to work with grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries. More than forty groups were started across Canada in the first five months of the initiative. The first “Grandmothers to Grandmothers gathering” took place at George Brown College at the University of Toronto in August 2006, attended by two hundred grandmothers from Canada and one hundred from sub-Saharan Africa. Several groups from the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign were profiled in Grandmother Power, a book by photojournalist Paola Gianturco.
The Campaign has since evolved into a dynamic and responsive national movement, and currently boasts more than 240 grandmothers groups across the country. Many of the groups have organized into regional and national networks in order to support each other’s development and fundraising.
Funds from the Grandmothers Campaign go to African grassroots organizations working with grandmothers and the children in their care in partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The SLF collaborates with grassroots groups who support grandmothers’ immediate needs such as: nutritious food, health care, transportation, home visits, adequate housing and bedding, school fees, uniforms and supplies for orphans – and longer-term needs such as parenting and business skills, micro-credit grants, bereavement counseling, HIV awareness training, counseling and testing and grandmother support groups.
It has supported more than 1100 initiatives, partnering with over 300 community-based organizations in the 15 countries hardest hit by the pandemic:
Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
To date some $21 million has been raised by Canadian Grandmother groups with our own Gran-Aurora contributing $85 000 in less than 9 years!