Celebrating the UN International Day of Older Persons in Zanzibar
On 1 October, we celebrated the UN International Day of Older Persons in Zanzibar in the grounds of Sebuleni, an older people's home.
With us were high level Government officials from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Youth, Women and Children Development, as well as older people from the home and representatives of older people's organisation Jumuia Ya Wazee Zanzibar.
The guest of honour, representing the President of Zanzibar, was Dr Mwinyi Haji Makame, Minister of State in the President's Office and the Revolutionary Council.
Activities and acting to highlight older people's needs
At the event there were activities including music by an older people's group, a tug of war, taekwondo, poetry reading and religious sermons. Older people from the home said that income security, access to healthcare and better representation by decision makers were their key demands to the Government for their Age Demands Action campaign.
Older people also performed a play highlighting how a lack of income has a huge impact on their lives. The play also showed that older people, unlike other groups such as women, people with disabilities and young people are not represented at a local or national level.
Dr Makame noted that the event being at the home honoured the first President of Zanzibar who established it in 1964. He also talked about how the Government had increased the pension for the older people living in older people's homes from Tsh 5,000 (US$3) to Tsh 40,000 (US$27). He remarked that older people in Pemba are now receiving three meals a day and other basic services due to the additional support provided by the Government.
Plans to help older people in the future
He then responded to older people's demands by talking about future Government plans to work on providing a universal pension and a social protection framework for all groups including older people and to improve healthcare services for all older people.
I also handed Dr Makame a copy of the report Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge. In my speech at the event, I mentioned that the Government should expand the coverage of the pension that it is providing to about 8,000 older people in Zanzibar.
The officials at the event also acknowledged that HelpAge and other older people's organisations play a critical role in ensuring older people are heard.
In recent weeks, HelpAge has been involved in a series of training programmes with Members of the House of Representatives and various ministries to secure support for the universal pension initiative.
The momentum created by the recent weeks' activities and the celebration of the International Day of Older People will, we hope, result in tangible benefits for the older people of Zanzibar.