The Grandmother Movement - Asia

Start an activist grandmother group---or join, support or network with an existing group! If you know of additional groups that should be listed, please contact us via email! (Projects highlighted in yellow are featured in the book Grandmother Power.)


The Silk Grandmothers. The Institute for Traditional Textiles in Siem Reap started with seven grandmothers. A Japanese textile craftsman hoped to revive Cambodia’s ancient silk-making practice, which had been passed from mother to daughter. In 1996, only village women in their 70’s and 80’s knew the craft and were paid pennies for their painstaking work. Today, their skills are practiced by 400 people who earn more than the average Cambodian. Learn more


Hip Hop Grannies. Since 2004, Wu Ying, now 72 and arguably the oldest hip hop dancer in China, has led five other grannies to win dance competitions, living out a childhood dream. Their big break occurred when they danced on TV during the 2008 Olympics. “I want to take a leading role in my own life,” Wu Ying says. And who doesn’t? Watch now


Barefoot College in Rajasthan has an electronics lab where grandmothers teach carefully selected grandmothers from rural villages all over the global south to be solar engineers. After six months at the school in Tilonia (about 50 miles southwest of Jaipur) graduates return home and install solar electricity in their own dark villages. Learn more

Grandmothers’ University. A woman scientist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, started this program in 2007 to support environmental activism, rejuvenate indigenous knowledge of agriculture, and transmit that information across generations. It is part of an agricultural program, Navdanya, based in New Delhi, which has 500,000 farmer members and focuses its work on seed banks, bio diversity and organic farming.


Jeju Grannies. For centuries, the women divers of Jeju Island (haenyeo) have harvested seaweed and shellfish at depths of 20 meters, holding their breath for as long as two minutes. Their only equipment is rubber suits, masks and nets. About 5,000 women divers perpetuate this tradition, most in their 70’s. Brenda Paik Sunoo has documented their lives in a wonderful book titled Moon Tides: Jeju Grannies of the Sea.


Amas, Japanese grandmothers, still dive in the waters off Toba, Shima and Shirahama, foraging for abalone and shellfish. (The only women who dive for pearls are those who perform for tourists at Mikimoto Pearl Island.) In many ways, methods haven’t changed for 1,500 years. During the May-September season, their income helps supports their families.


Lila Pilipina is an organization of “lolas” (grandmothers) who were forced to be sex slaves of the Japanese military during World War II. After years of silence and shame, the women, now in their 70’s, 80s and 90’s, have sued for an apology, reparations, and a place in the history books. They also organize street demonstrations to prevent violence against women everywhere. Learn more


Kokkabok Group of Housewives Spinning Local Cotton is a community cooperative whose grandmother members grow organic cotton, then dye, card, spin and weave it using natural dyes. They are dedicated to preserving the cotton tradition despite environmental threats from gold mines nearby. Located about an hour from Loei city in Northeastern Thailand, their products (and others like them) are sold by Canada’s Tammachat Natural Textiles.

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