National Conference on Old Age takes place in Mozambique
Events specifically dedicated to older people's issues are rare in Mozambique but for some years now, the Government has, in partnership with civil society the Forum of Older People Associations (FTI) has held the National Conference on Old Age (NCOA) every three years.
The latest NCOA was held in September in Maputo. It was led by the Minister of Women and Social Action and attended by 150 participants; 60% of which were older people.
The NCOA is an extremely important platform where the Government, older people's associations, NGOs, private sector, donors, international development agencies and other actors discuss older people's issues and how to ensure they are included in public policies. HelpAge International was central in planning and running the event, making it the most important advocacy action we have supported so far.
Promoting and protecting older people's rights
The conference took place at a particularly relevant time for older people in Mozambique. This year will see the final draft of a law to promote and protect older people's rights. The Government began a public consultation on this law in April. Hopefully it will be approved by the Mozambique Council of Ministers before the end of the year, meaning it can be tabled in Parliament and start being enforced.
This draft law became the focal point of the conference. The campaign for its approval was led by the Mozambique forum of national associations of older people. Before the event, they organised consultations at community level to give older people the chance to voice their opinions on the law.
Some key points came out of these consultations:
- It should be the state's obligation to ensure older people's rights are protected.
- The age when older age starts should be kept at 55 for women and 60 for men.
- Healthcare for older people should be part of Public National Health Services.
Government committed to older people's needs
I took three really encouraging points from the conference: First, Prime Minister, Dr Aires Aly, and the Minister of Women and Social Action both gave speeches which underlined the Government's commitment to the needs and the rights of older people.
Secondly, key issues related to older people, including social protection, violence against older people and ageing and health were part of the agenda.
Finally, older people were present and actively participated in discussions at the event, holding those there accountable for the little progress so far in protecting older people's rights.
Older people will continue to campaign
A list of recommendations and follow-up actions were also drawn up at the conference. For example, older people's associations will continue to campaign for the law to protect older people's rights to be approved and ensure it takes older people's opinions into account.
HelpAge in Mozambique will be involved in the follow up, particularly with regards to documenting evidence on older people's living conditions. This will also include monitoring data on older people's access to social protection, health and HIV and AIDS services and programmes.
The conference was a great learning opportunity for all involved. Given that the draft law on older people's rights is not yet a closed issue, the conference will remain a "living" event in the minds and actions of the older people and institutions dealing with ageing issues in Mozambique.