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The rhythm and soul of ADA 2011

29 Nov 2011

An campaigner in Paskistan where discounted public transport fares were announced“In all my life, this has been the first time I have met the authorities in my country.”

Rémerjuste Fremont, 109, Haiti.

As the only globally coordinated movement led by older people that enables their voices to be heard, Age Demands Action (ADA) is special to many people for different reasons.

Some highlight the very real impact on older people's lives around the world that the campaign has; others talk of the way ADA reaches across borders; enabled by a network of Affiliates and partners. One thing that can sometimes get overlooked is what being part of a campaign means to the older people taking action.

Proud to be an older person

Thousands took to the streets of Manila to demand pensions for the poorestA conservative estimate from campaign partners suggests that 100,000 older people have been directly involved in Age Demands Action this year. Every one of those campaigners has their own story and ADA matters to them for individual reasons.

For some campaigners, ADA has offered them the chance to get involved in a campaign for the very first time. U Khin Maung is an ADA campaigner in Myanmar.

On 29 September, he travelled from his village to an Age Demands Action event in the country’s new capital, Nay Pyi Taw, where the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement pledged practical support for Myanmar’s network of older people’s self-help groups.

U Khin Maung sung a traditional folk song at the campaign event and described the day as "one of the most remarkable day’s of my life, it was like a dream".

It is only in very recent memory that the idea of older people coming face-to-face with a politician in Myanmar would seem very unlikely indeed.

A source of optimism

ADA campaigner Paul Kamua Gakinya with the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mutula Kilonzo

All too often, older people feel that politicians simply ignore what they have to say. By using ADA to amplify their voice, older people are making it increasingly difficult for politicians to ignore them.

Paul Kamau, 74, does odd jobs around his village to provide for the six grandchildren who live with him. For Paul, Age Demands Action is a source of great optimism:

"This campaign has given me some hope because it makes the whole world pay attention to the older persons, which is very rare! I am proud to be called an older person.”

An empowering experience

Being part of a campaign can be an incredibly empowering experience. The solidarity and recognition of having your voice heard can offer someone a renewed sense of confidence.

Julie E. Catangay, 68, was one of thousands who took part in the campaign that won the Philippines its first ever social pension. Julie says:

"I am very happy and proud to be part of the ADA campaign. People in my community were delighted of the outcome and all the campaign efforts we made. They all knew that it would be our legacy to the future older persons.”

The beating heart of ADA

A massive march in San Jose, Asociación Gerontológica Costarricense (the Costa Rican Gerontological Association)Meetings between older people and decision makers are at the heart of campaign and vital to winning change. But the rhythm and soul of Age Demands Action is manifest in the passionate and innovative ways that older people draw the public’s attention to the campaign.

Public ADA actions often have a musical element. ADA Ghana saw marches in Accra and the Volta region led by a brass band. In Moldova, the Minister for Labour and Social Protection was amongst hundreds who listened to traditional folk music in Chinsau’s main square.

At ADA events in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, the music was provided by an intergenerational self-help group and a school dance troupe from Jaffna respectively. In Nepal and Indonesia, campaigners took matters into their own hands and decided to write and record their own ADA songs.

Public transport, poems and music

In Sudan and Pakistan, ADA campaigns won discounted public transport fares for older people so it seems fitting that public transport providing the setting for Age Demands Action awareness raising.

In South Korea, campaigners from older people’s associations took their campaign to Seoul’s central railway station and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ADA stickers were proudly displayed by taxi drivers. In Serbia, Age Demands Action posters were posted inside 40 public buses in ten cities.

Campaigners in the Democratic Republic of Congo wrote special poems and in Jamaica where the celebrated Jolly Boys lent their support to the campaign, there was a coordinated action of campaigners calling in to radio talk shows to raise awareness of older people's issues.

Members of an Older Persons Self-Help Group performa at ADA VietnamThousands marched for older people

A more traditional approach was taken in some countries with thousands marching in Kenya, Philippines, Peru, Tanzania and Pakistan to name just a few.

In Costa Rica and Germany thousands of balloons were the order of the day. Giant balloons were used to represent different parts of the world at an event in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin and in San José, the Costa Rican capital pink and purple balloons were held aloft by over 500 marchers.

Show your support!

All this merely touches upon some of the sights and sounds of ADA 2011 and there is so much more to say.

Please visit the ADA web pages for more photos and updates.

Lastly, if you haven’t already, please do sign the ADA global petition.

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John McGeachy
Job title: Campaigns assistant

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