Grandmothers Still Make A Difference

A few weeks ago, I came upon a article that reminded me of how crucial it is for women to be heard, especially grandmothers.

In a village in Dakar, Senegal, a group of elderly women held a health session to prepare mothers-to-be about childbirth. While these women advised and talked to the younger women about what to expect before and after childbirth, There was no backbiting, no arguments, just women helping other women out.

These women, shared their experiences stemming from song, dance and culture, through a health and advise session, as a way to prepare younger pregnant women for their future. This support system, known as “bajenu gox”, give these senior women the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their stories. With the help of ChildFund International, a project stemming from the Grandmother Project that was created by Judi Aubel, an American, this project is being funded in villages like Guereo in order to spread its impact on other villages and beyond.The elder women of Guereo, grandmothers and mothers-in-law, have always been seen by the young women of that village as sources of wisdom and there’s a lot to be said about that.

Where do the elderly women of our culture fall in? in the United States, it is rare to find families who have grandmothers or mothers-in-law living with them, unless it’s for economic reasons. The elderly of our culture either live on their own, or in nursing homes as they become too weak to care for themselves. In my own family, my parents still live on their own and have no plans on living with me or my siblings.

While my grandparents never lived with us or with my parents, I do remember that when I was growing up, I went to visit one of my mother’s great-aunts and it was quite a visit. What I remember about her was that she knew everything there was to know about stomach pains. She had home remedies for stomach pains and kept telling my mother that if any of her kids had stomach pains, she should use her remedy. I don’t know if my mother ever used any of her great-aunt’s home remedies, but I do remember how she sat there, listened and never questioned her “suggestions”. While my mother was already an adult, this great-aunt represented all the women, including her own mother, who took care of her and her eight siblings.

As I remember this story, I am faced with questioning the connection between younger and elderly women. As I get older, am I missing a big component of family life by not following the example of the senior women of Senegal? Am I keeping my daughter from growing up with older Filipina and Jewish women, each having differing opinions that she might one day use for her own family? While it is possible that having elderly women live with my family would enrich my daughter’s experiences, I’m not certain that it would impact me the same way. Maybe I need to be reminded by stories like this and how women’s opinions always make a difference, especially elderly women, of how each of us benefit from one another’s experiences. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?

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