Stephen Lewis: Race Against Time

Stephen Lewis book-RACE AGAINST TIME –House of Anansi Press Inc. 2005 189 pages

Mere words on paper do not convey the eloquent oration of a man such as Stephen Lewis. His impassioned lectures clearly convey his anger about the consuming pandemic in Africa of those stricken with HIV/AIDS. In fact, with 25 million victims in sub-Sahara Africa, you would be forgiven if you renamed his book, RAGE AGAINST TIME.

In his book, Lewis recounts his 5 years as special envoy to Africa at The United Nations where he became incensed at the impotency of such a large world entity that hindered the problems by commissioning studies to no avail and particularly failed to address the plight of African women.

Women’s rights do not exist in most of Africa. There is an absence of autonomy with gender inequality. Women are vulnerable and degraded, especially those with AIDS as there prevails a stigmatism of a bad person. But the irony is that females are usually infected by extramarital exposure from their husbands.

Mr. Lewis expresses rage that The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund are global institutions who have untold, incredible powers. They can prevent nations from producing and procuring the vital serums to save countless lives from the cruel and painful process of dying with AIDS. These two insidious corporations invoke the avarice of greed and control to manipulate the lives of the less fortunate for their personal monetary gain. There is no reason for all of these deaths because cheaper anti-viral drugs are available from India but African governments seem to be coerced by The World Bank and the IMF to deal with their own corrupt colleagues.

Recently in the U.S.A., Hurricane Katrina’s sad toll of victims was 1500 people. In African nations, 7,000 people die needlessly every day. It is a frantic and dire situation. Babies dying every ten minutes are images that haunt Stephen Lewis. David Suzuki laments that Stephen is in a lonely battle to awaken the best in us.

Some countries in Africa have lost a generation of young people, primarily women and young girls. Child labour and prostitution is rampant. The number of orphans is a staggering thought. It is at crisis level and by the year 2010, there will be 18 million orphans in Africa. This has never happened before on earth and we simply do not know what to expect. Some grandmothers have buried all of their children and it is not unusual for an African grandmother to support 28 grandchildren. The UN hasn’t grasped the problem. But the has a special component for Canadian grandmothers to form support groups and raise funds to help provide food, water, school fees, uniforms and resources for the meager existence of these huge and destitute families.

There are over one hundred grandmother groups in Canada now who want to inform the world about the heroic efforts of their "kindred spirits” in Africa. With this new found encouragement from across the world, these African grandmothers have become "empowered granny activists” in their own land and are finding solidarity in numbers.

Before his expired term at the UN, Lewis chartered The United Nations International Women’s Rights Agency which is fully funded and now represents half of the world population that had no global voice until Stephen Lewis lent them his.

The grannies of Africa are coping with a daunting task. This is a new architecture of the human family. But what happens when the grandmothers die?

Rather like Al Gore, Stephen Lewis presents "inconvenient truths” so that you are morally obligated to become proactive.

Let us individually hope that the horrific suffering will not be in vain and that the collective consciousness of humanity will be raised to the highest level of compassion and activism.

Linda Thorn is a Therapist, Charity Event Planner, Educator and Writer who is interested in living a "green life" with a global and universal perspective on mind, body and spirit.