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Human Rights Day 2010: Reflections on a great year for older people's rights

10 Dec 2010

Older women protesting for her rights in HaitiToday is Human Rights Day; the theme for this year is human rights defenders who work to end discrimination.

Being part of HelpAge International and working on our Age Demands Action campaign, marking the importance of those defending human rights seems particularly significant.

And this year perhaps even more than others. 

As an organisation we've achieved so much, as have the older people around the world we work with. And clearly Human Rights Day is the best day to do it!

Global action on human rights

Firstly, in October we worked with thousands of rights defenders through the older men and women in 50 countries around the world who spoke up to defend their rights as part of the Age Demands Action campaign.

There were marches with brass band processions and involving celebrities like Kenyan football legend, Joe Kadenge. World renowned South African trumpeter, singer and composer Hugh Masekela also lent his support to older people's rights.

There were also exhibitions of older people's handicrafts and interactive radio talkshows in Indonesia; and in Bangladesh older people formed human chains to ask for an increase in their old age allowance.

Demands becoming reality

This year was bigger and better than ever and older people's demands are already becoming a reality. Just are few examples are:

In Ghana, the government approved the National Ageing Policy and accelerated registration of poorer older people over 65 for cash transfers.

In Tanzania, four political parties included universal pensions and free healthcare for older people in their manifestos. The Prime Minister also pledged commitment to free healthcare and a universal pension for older people.

In Bolivia, a draft law against abuse was presented by the Ministry of Equal Opportunities after hundreds of activists highlighted rights abuses against older people.

In Cambodia, the government is introducing a health equity fund to provide free healthcare for the poorest older people.

All of which, I think you'll agree, is pretty inspiring!

Human rights progress at the highest level

An Age Demands Action activist in EthiopiaSecondly, there has been significant progress towards better protection of older people's rights at an international level.

Today, for example, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, mentioned older people's rights in her statement. A small, but significant step!

More concrete action, however, includes:

Admittedly, there is still a lot to be done. But, I can say with confidence that 2010 has been a great year for older people's rights being more widely recognised, positive action being taken and, of course, older people themselves defending their human rights.

Let's hope that there will be even more to celebrate when Human Rights Day 2011 comes around!

Read more about our campaigns and our work for the rights of older people.

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Author profile

Jennifer Williams
Country: UK
Job title: Campaigns

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