Older Cambodians use ADA as a powerful advocacy platform
Hello! I am Ven Sarith, Project Manager at HelpAge International’s Cambodia office. I am happy to have the chance to share Cambodia’s experiences of the Age Demands Action (ADA) campaign.
HelpAge International in Cambodia implements practical programmes through a network of older people’s associations (OPAs). The OPAs give older people a united voice so they can influence policy.
For the past three years, HelpAge International Cambodia and the OPAs have joined forces for the ADA campaign.
Older people raising their voice
In the lead up to ADA 2010, HelpAge supported older people to prepare advocacy messages, which they delivered to government officials on the International Day of Older People, 1 October.
The older people’s leaders called for the government to pay more attention to older people’s living conditions, especially those living in rural areas. They also asked for free access to health care, increased home care services and a social pension that covers all older people.
One of the special moments I would like to share from the day of action was witnessing older people’s leader Mm Chan Soth take the floor in front of people she thought would never listen to her.
She delivered her message with passion on behalf of older people in her community. The deputy governor of Battambang province was particularly inspired and called on all relevant provincial departments to recognise older people's needs.
The heads of the social affairs and health departments also reaffirmed their commitment to improve older people’s access to health care and other services.
Journalists and members of the press came to the meetings and community events we organised. As a result, two articles appeared in local newspapers and information about ADA was broadcast the following day.
The close relationships that the older activists established with government officials are still going strong. The ministry of social affairs has now committed to keeping ageing and social protection issues firmly on the national agenda.
The minister presenting the keynote address on the International Day for Older People said that the government should recognise the growing ageing population and the challenges that older people face. He committed to improving older people's wellbeing and thanked HelpAge International Cambodia.
The success of ADA 2010 has increased our capacity and confidence to get involved with ADA 2011. Building on this momentum we will support a delegation which will demand real change.
Going national for ADA 2011
At a national level, HelpAge Cambodia is working with the ministry of social affairs to arrange a meeting between the older people’s delegation and the minister on International Day of Older People.
We also hope to broadcast a video on local TV about older people to attract public interest and push the topic onto the government agenda.
This is only the beginning
We still have a long way to go. We need to keep older people mobilised. The next step is to see older people's rights translated into practical change. Older people in Cambodia have never been mobilised like this before.
Year by year, I have observed increasingly encouraging signs and the government is finally taking notice of older people.