Kenya's lead on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day warmed our hearts and our hopes
On a chilly day last Monday, my day began with breakfast in a cafe with older activists that had been mobilised for the Age Demands Action campaign on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).
After a while we were joined by the imposing Kenga Charo Mangi (pictured right) from Kilifi County at the Coast of Kenya. Kenga runs the Kaya Dodoma shelter for victims of elder abuse at his farm in Kilifi County.
Standing at over 6ft tall and dressed in the traditional attire of a Giriama elder, Kenga caused quite a stir at the café. He was accompanied by Khadija*, an older woman who had been a victim of elder abuse. She had been accused of being a witch and was currently seeking shelter at Kaya Dodoma.
It was Khadija's first time to visit Nairobi and I could only imagine what was going through her mind as she looked at her surroundings that were so different from her home on the humid coast of the Indian Ocean.
After breakfast, we proceeded to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), venue of the national launch of WEADD.
At KICC, more older people from Kawangware area joined us for the activities.
As people introduced themselves, one male participant said: "I want to see a world where older people are not subjected to abuse".
"My expectation from this event is to know how abuse against older people can be minimised," said another participant.
Ministers promise to tackle elder abuse
For the very first time, the Kenya Government - through the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Services - was taking the lead in WEAAD and represented by the Principal Secretary Ali Noor Ismail.
In his address he said the ministry was committed to tackling the issue of elder abuse and pledged the Ministry would lead on WEAAD activities every year.
Hearing this speech was a great milestone for me and for older people. Because now that the Government has committed to spearheading WEAAD activities in the country means that elder abuse and the plight of older people are getting increased recognition.
Now we must hope that this will translate to a legal framework that protects the rights of older people like Khadija.
Traditionally in Kenya and in most African societies, elders have always been revered and held a special place in the community.
But with rapid modernization, migration and a changing social fabric, older people are experiencing abuse and neglect.
African countries have taken an important step by drafting an African Protocol for the Rights of older people, approved by the Social Development Minister at the end of May.
There is also need to have in place social welfare schemes and programmes, in the form of a social protection floor, that will cater for an increasingly ageing population and ensure all people everywhere can enjoy an old age with dignity and quality of life.
The WEAAD event in Nairobi gave me an opportunity for the first time to directly interact with a large group of older activists as they took part in activities for the HelpAge network. Their enthusiastic participation during the event brought great warmth to an otherwise cold day.
*Names have been changed to protect identities
Learn more about the global Age Demands Action movement.