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Meeting the campaigners who make Age Demands Action

14 Nov 2012

Me and our activists!For a Campaigns Coordinator, it is a dream come true to meet the faces behind our Age Demands Action campaign. In October, I travelled to Nairobi in Kenya to meet our activists who, for the past two years, have been building relationships and exchanging their experiences on ageing issues with campaigners in Europe.

It is people like Paul Muthee, Josephine Napkonde, Rhoda Ngima, Rispa Mudege, Philomena Maingi and Paul Gakinya who make the campaign happen.

I did not realise that many of our activists had to spend hours on buses, fighting through the Nairobi traffic to meet me. I felt embarrassed and grateful at the same time.

What makes the campaign work

I talked to the activists about their campaign which took place on 1 October. The ADA events organised in Kenya happened in Uhuru Park Nairobi where 400 older people from different ethnicities and different parts of the country marched to claim their rights and fight discrimination. 

The procession was led by 60-year-old marathon runner Ms Magdalina. At the same time, a delegation of older people including our ADA activists Rhoda, Rispa and Philomena met the Assistant of the Minister of Finance to hand over a petition from older Kenyans calling for free medical treatment for older people.

It was Philomena who read the petition to the Assistant Minister. As a result, on 20 October which is Kenya's Heroes Day, free medical treatment for older people who fought for independence was mentioned during the Assistant Minister of Finance, the President and Prime Minister's speeches.

Philomena told me: "Before we were involved with HelpAge, we could not show our problems to the public. But now we have knowledge, we are able to speak up."It is clear that the campaign means a lot to our activists. Paul Gakinya said: "This is something that I will always remember; the world changes through ADA and we need to carry on."

Rhoda added: "We were given weapons to fight for ourselves. Now we talk as kings."

Getting to know the campaigners

Paul Gakinya, 72, one of our older campaigners and his wife Mary.I could not resist asking a few questions about what motivated these older people to be involved in the campaign.

Paul said he is just one of many older people who care for orphans. For them, the campaign is a tool and taking part is solving problems for older people who are carers with very little support.

For Philomena, it was the issue of water in rural areas that made her join. Many women have to walk around 7 km each day to fetch water during a drought. Women can sometimes wait all day for the well to fill up. "Women like me cannot stay queuing for water all day. I need to take care of my grandchildren," she said.

The campaign gave Philomena the opportunity to be an ambassador for older people living in drought areas, speaking their language and voicing their opinions on how to improve their lives. 

Paul finished the meeting by saying: "ADA makes me feel like I am a man. When I walk now, I put my chest forward." 

I left Nairobi full of inspiration, motivation and brimming with the courage that our incredible older campaigners show their communities and country every day.

Find out more about Age Demands Action and our work in Kenya.

Your comments

Gacheru Maina

Great sentiments. I believe the interaction between the ADA activists from different countries is extremely beneficial to HelpAge's advocacy work.

Agnes Pondo Nyambare

This is very good. I am happy and grateful that you were able to find time to meet the activists in person and actually bond with each of them. This shows commitment and passion for the advocacy work evolving around ADA.

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Author profile


Barbara Dockalova
Country: London
Job title: Campaigns Co-ordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.