Following the global launch of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International report, Ageing in the Twenty- First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge, Mama Rhoda, an activist from Kenya is in Brussels to speak about older people’s rights at the EU Parliament. To celebrate the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, Mama Rhoda will be speaking at the ‘Age-Friendly EU development cooperation’ event on 4th October at the EU Parliament.
Mama Rhoda’s story
Mama Rhoda from Kenya is an award- winning community worker and a veteran campaigner for older people’s rights. Aged 74, she lives in a slum in Nairobi and runs her own small shop. She often represents her fellow older Kenyans at her Government, and now, she is in Brussels to speak about experiences of older people from developing countries.
“I have come to Brussels to urge EU leaders to take urgent actions and support older people like myself. Older people in Kenya face numerous challenges- lack of income security being a major one. We need money to access health care, buy food and take care of our grandchildren as most of our children have either migrated to cities or have died of HIV. I also know of some older people who share medical prescriptions due to lack of money. This gives a sad picture of the way older people are suffering,” she says.
Mama Rhoda is one of the increasing numbers of older people around the world who struggle to access basic necessities in life such as health care. As population grows at an unprecedented rate, greater action is needed to ensure people of all ages live with dignity and security. According to the recent U.N. Population Fund and HelpAge International report, Ageing in Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge, the number of older persons will surpass 1 billion in a decade.
The population is accelerating at a faster pace in many developing countries, who are largely unprepared for the impact of this shift. According to the UN and HelpAge report, today two out of three people aged 60 or over, live in developing and emerging economies. By 2050, this will rise to nearly four in five. While the trend of ageing societies is a cause for celebration, it also presents huge challenges as it requires completely new approaches to health care, retirement, living arrangements and intergenerational relations.
“The EU should lead the way in recognising the potential of the older population and provide support to them. Similarly, the EU should work with governments in the developing countries to assist older people and support different programmes that benefit them. The EU should also promote activities and livelihood opportunities for the older people and encourage investments in the lives of older persons,” Mama Rhoda explains.
Mama Rhoda has voiced the concerns and needs of older people for a long time. Every year she participates in the global activism of older people through the grassroots movement- Age Demands Action campaign. This year, she handed over a petition on behalf of the older persons in Kenya to the assistant minister of Finance demanding an increase in the number of districts receiving government cash transfers as well as an increase in the amount allocated.
To celebrate the 2012 European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations, activists like Mama Rhoda from Kenya, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Netherlands are participating in the event ‘Age-Friendly EU development cooperation’, organised by HelpAge International and its partners with support from the EU. Chaired by Thijs Berman, Member of the European Parliament, the event brings together the experiences of older persons from all over the world, highlighting key issues in relation to ageing and EU development policies. The event will also have Jean Lambert, Member of the European Parliament, Kevin McCarthy, Policy and Coherence Unit, Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid (DG DEVCO), and Ivan Hermans, Senior Policy and External Relations Adviser, UNFPA Brussels office speak at the event addressing the role of EU in mainstreaming ageing into development