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At the UN: We must all work together for older people's rights

02 Aug 2011

At the UN in New York My name is Teresa Minja and I am 71 years old. I was invited to the UN to speak at the Open Ended Working Group on Ageing about older people's right to health and violence against older women in my country.

It's my first time in the USA and in New York and the idea of coming was very exciting. I was anxious but also looked forward to it. I knew I would meet people here I could talk to about the issues that I work on. I was looking forward to learning a lot from people here.

Learning process

And I have learnt so much. I've met a lot of people and enjoyed their company. I have been very impressed with what people have had to say and they have been impressed with what I have said. I have made a lot of new friends and exchanged a lot of business cards!

It is only the second day and I'm looking forward to the next two days - I expect to learn a lot more! Tomorrow, the topic is social protection. As the Chair of the Tanzania Social Protection Network, I am interested to learn what others are doing.

To me it has been a learning process. I have met so many people from different places. However, I have to say I'm disappointed to note that so many countries are not taking older people seriously.

I can see this because of the absence of the representatives of many governments in the meeting, including Tanzania. I would like to see the house full!

Ageing issues are global

I spoke at two meetings today. I really enjoyed speaking at the lunchtime side event on the right to health. It was more relaxed than this afternoon's panel discussion on violence against older women - sitting up there in front of everyone was a bit frightening... Maybe it would have been easier speaking from the floor. 

I'm impressed by the organised structure of the UN, the conference rooms, the interpretation into five languages which ensures that nobody misses anything even if you do not speak the language.

When I go back to my community, I will tell them I have discovered that the problems of ageing are not just in Tanzania, but worldwide. I have not found one country that does not speak about the issue of ageing. But more could be done to combine our global understanding to say something concrete.

Good memories

Being here has given me the feeling that although we have started working on this issue, we need to do more.

We need to mobilise, to educate, to sensitise the governments, older people, the community. Everyone should be speaking about older people!

I am definitely going to take some good memories home with me from New York!

Read more about older people's rights at the UN

Your comments

Oruga Matthew Oghenemano

Older people are not only discriminated in Nigeria and the world at large but disdained,neglected and abandoned in society they have helped to build. Africans must rise now to imbibe the culture of care and support to all older persons especially, the older women and be firm to stop the spread of all forms of Elder Abuse. A high population of the elderly are sick without help and live in abject poverty. The living conditions of the elderly today in Nigeria are threat to all. Old age which ought to be enjoyed is now perceived like ARMAGEDDON. This of course, has breached the confidence many have on the political class and leaders, and as a result, lot of people live in perpetual fears of old age. This is because the Nigerian society has abandoned the elderly at the time they needed society to cloth them with love and respect. The situation creates so much uncertainty, despondency and apprehension thereby, making people to throw away the core values, moral and integrity for mere survival and often times, a life of affluence. In some cases the quest to secure future for self, many are not hurt. There is genuine intention from Concern for Elders Initiative (CEI) to give Nigerians a freedom from fear by reversing the old attitude to move Nigeria forward and keep the integrity. What is important today? As stakeholders and responsible citizens, we owe it a duty to turn attention and deliberately seek adequate support for the elderly population, because we all aspire to grow old. CEI is mobilizing societal support and networking like-minded persons, groups and organizations to help build a positive and active aging population that will mentor the younger generation in Nigeria.

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Author profile


Teresa Minja
Country: Tanzania
Job title: Older activist

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