The media likes to portray grandmothers as old, white-haired ladies in nubby sweaters baking cookies in the kitchen. With her book and new exhibition Grandmother Power, renowned photojournalist Paola Gianturco shows us that a new image has emerged.

Winner of the 2013 International Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction, Grandmother Power features stunning profiles of 120 trailblazing activist grandmothers in 15 countries on 5 continents, who are standing up for their grandchildren in a fight for political, economic and social justice.

grandmother_power_cover“When I was working in Africa in 2006, I met so many grandmothers who were raising grandchildren who had been orphaned by AIDS that I left thinking, ‘The future of the African continent rests in the hands of the grandmothers!’ This inspired me to research on what grandmothers were doing in other places, discovering an emerging international movement,” Paola shares.

There are more grandmothers in the world today than ever before. With increased access to healthcare and education, they are better off than they have ever been and are campaigning for change. These women show an incredible amount of energy, patience, perseverance and resilience. Their programs, many of which pull together hundreds or even thousands of grandmothers, include battles to support literacy, the environment, education, and human rights.

“Grandmothers are a powerful resource for important social change, but not many people know about the activists. To share what I’ve learned, I created the book, which has inspired the new traveling museum exhibit just launched this fall.”

Through the exhibit, Paola hopes the grandmother movement will garner support in the US, she explains, “About two million children are being raised by U.S. grandmothers. The grandmother movement is well underway in other countries, but it is a new trend here. There are many issues being addressed by grandmothers in other parts of the world that U.S. grandmother groups could tackle here: illiteracy, domestic violence and health, for example. I’d love to see them take on all that — and more!”

After having met and engaged with hundreds of grandmothers, we wanted to know what being a grandmother means to Paola, she told us, “Being a grandmother lets me share my life with two little girls who are, by some miracle, related to me; being with them gives me profound pleasure. I promised myself that I would never be a besotted grandmother, but that promise was downright ridiculous.”

For further information or to suggest a location for the Grandmother Power exhibit in your area, click here.

Some highlights from Grandmother Power


Argentine grandmothers are bringing the gift of reading to a new generation. Through the “Storytelling Grandmothers” program, grandmothers across Argentina are helping to re-engage children with books.


When the grandmothers in villages near Vélingara discovered that their daughters were dying in childbirth from hemorrhages caused by female genital cutting, the grandmothers decided to stop this practice, which they had traditionally championed.


In six months, Indian grandmothers learn to be solar engineers. They return to their dark villages to install solar electricity. Everything changes: children can study, midwives can deliver babies, residents can walk safely at night.


MachsomWatch (Checkpoint Watch) is an organization of 400 Jewish Israeli grandmothers, all peace activists, who monitor military checkpoints in the West Bank, through which Palestinians must commute daily.

More About Paola Gianturco

GM_author_photoFor the past 16 years, Paola Gianturco has worked as a photojournalist, documenting women’s lives in 55 countries. powerHouse Books has published five of her acclaimed photographic books. All are philanthropic projects, for which she donates her royalties to carefully selected non-profit organizations that relate to each book’s content.

Gianturco is giving 100% of her author royalties from this book to the Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which benefits grandmothers raising AIDS orphans in 15 African countries.

Her work has been exhibited at UNESCO; United Nations; Chicago’s Field Museum; San Francisco’s International Museum of Women; among others.

All photos ©Paola Gianturco