Description: Research was conducted by The Institute for Ageing in Africa (University of Cape Town) into the plight of grandmothers living on the Cape Flats. These women headed households that were affected by HIV/AIDS and faced abject poverty that was made worse by a family member contracting HIV and subsequently dying. When asked what they thought would assist them to cope with their situations, more than half of them wanted business skills training so that they could start their own small businesses. They wanted to be helped to access grants, to educate their grandchildren, and to obtain food. In October 2001, a group of grandmothers from Khayelitsha and an occupational therapist formed a non-profit organisation called Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA) to help grandmothers whose families were affected by HIV/AIDS to cope better with their daily lives.
Initially grandparents from Khayelitsha made up the majority of the members. Now there are members as far afield as Tsolo and Umtata in the Eastern Cape, while new members have joined from Gugulethu and Langa. Funding is sourced through partnerships with the Independent Development Trust and provincial Dept. of Social Services and Poverty Alleviation.
GAPA runs educational workshops and promotes peer support through the formation of groups. Every month a workshop series is run for thirty new grandmothers covering various topics such as: AIDS education, human rights, accessing government grants, business skills, vegetable gardening, bereavement, child care, drawing up a will, and nutrition. GAPA supports the formation of psychological support groups under the leadership of an area representative and the formation of business co-operatives based in peoples' homes throughout Khayelitsha.
Innovation: It is traditional in Africa that grandmothers care for their grandchildren, while the children's parents are working. However, very little attention has been focused on building the capacity of grandmothers to become effective sole caretakers of families when their children and relatives die prematurely from AIDS. Through close links with communities, feeding schemes, pre-school bursary schemes, and specialised workshops were conducted to meet the needs of the grandparents. They also fill all staffing needs of the project.
Effectiveness: Since its inception there are now 19 home groups (190 grandmothers) operating in Cape Town and three co-operatives in the Eastern Cape. There were 406 workshops attendees from February 2004 to April 2005. The number of grandmothers who receive preschool bursaries rose from 53 in 2004 to 67 by March 2005. The activities rendered complement work done by other organisations in the area.
Poverty Impact: GAPA programmes empower grandmothers; they learn acceptance, "that is to be able to help the person with HIV and to teach others how to accept them"; they learn that they can "nurse the HIV positive person without becoming sick"; they no longer sit at home "unhappy and alone"; they have a measure of financial security through their income generating activities and are able to meet the needs of their grandchildren.
Sustainability: Funding is secured as government is committed to the project. The project will continue to grow as more grandmothers are affected by HIV/AIDS. The main challenge is hiring project managers for additional areas. The Khayelitsha project manager is working to capacity and cannot cope with additional areas. Employment of project managers needs funding which is difficult to access from private donors due to its ongoing nature.
Replication: The GAPA model is replicable and interest has been shown in the Sedibeng District and the Free State about starting up GAPA-type organisations. Meetings have been held with GAPA staff and interested parties from these areas.