Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012
Grandmother Project- Change through Culture


This profile was prepared when Judi Aubel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
In development programs addressing the health and well-being of women and children in non-Western cultures, grandmothers are often perceived as supporters of harmful practices and resistant to change.

Based on many years of experience working in community programs in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Judi realized that across cultures grandmothers have tremendous authority within families on matters concerning women and children, including acting as advisors to men on these matters. She saw this influential role as an opportunity and decided that grandmothers should be viewed as a resource rather than as an obstacle. Instead of excluding them because of their “negative” influence, she developed an approach to engage and leverage grandmothers’ influence as an asset to development programs to promote positive change in socio-cultural norms and practices that negatively impact women and children. This grandmother-inclusive approach became the basis for the nonprofit she co-founded, Grandmother Project – Change through Culture (GMP). GMP has demonstrated that when grandmothers are actively involved in programs, and respected for their wisdom and knowledge, they are usually open to new ideas, and can be strong supporters and protectors of women and children, especially girls.

GMP’s approach helps communities become more resilient by assisting them to recognize and cultivate their own strengths so that they can more effectively identify and resolve the various challenges they face. Judi has developed the grandmother-inclusive approach primarily in West Africa, and to a lesser extent in Latin America and Asia, but she believes that grandmothers are a rich and abundant cultural resource to families and communities in all non-Western societies. The idea of empowering grandmothers to be effective levers for social change in communities on behalf of vulnerable groups, namely women and children, and especially girls, has broad relevance.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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