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Protesting against elder abuse

10 Aug 2011

One of the placards at the demonstrationWorld Elder Abuse Awareness Day was in June. To mark the occasion, KARIKA, an organisation concerned with the effects of HIV and AIDS on older Kenyans, sponsored a one day procession and rally. KARIKA is an acronym for Kenyan Aged people Require Information, Knowledge and Advancement.

More than 400 older people and activists of all ages went to the event organised, including people from HelpAge Kenya, HelpAge International and government representatives. Children who have been affected or orphaned by HIV and AIDS performed poems, songs and dances.

It's so important to recognise World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as there have been recent witchcraft allegations and violence towards older people in Kenya, which is completely unacceptable.

Older people spoke about discrimination at health centres

The events of the day started at the KARIKA headquarters with a procession to the district offices of the government. The procession was led by the Slams Band, which is made up of orphaned young adults. We also had banners with strong messages like "being kind to elders is not a sign of weakness". When we got to the district offices, different group leaders, government officials and the director of KARIKA spoke about the issue of elder abuse in Kenya.

Older people expressed concerns about the discrimination they face at health centres. Many people said that doctors discriminate against them by dismissing their health complaints as age-related. They said that their problems receive little attention and they don't get any prescription for any other help.

It was mentioned that there is a specific health centre for older people in Kawangware region. However, older people at the demonstration told us that the centre had insufficient staffing and a shortage of medicine.

KARIKA members spoke out against elder abuse. They were asking for older people to be included in social policies, to get better and more tailored healthcare, food, house and income security, as well as more help for disabled people and older people caring for others.

Contributions to society

As well as talking about the issues older people face, there was also a discussion about the contributions older people make to society. For example, the role older people played as peace makers and mediators in the recent post-election violence was highlighted. The one billion shilling increase pledged to older people in the latest Kenyan budget was also mentioned as a great step forward.

The government officials who were being challenged at the rally also had some very positive things to say about defending older people's rights. They assured land owners that the government will deal with local officials who harass them on legal issues.

Finally, the district officer mentioned that the cash transfers, though little, have had a positive effect on health and nutrition in the area.   

Read more about our work on older people's rights

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Author profile

James Muruthi
Country: Kenya

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