Older activists "light the way" to a better future for all ages

24/09/2015

Light the way to a better future for all ages (c) Jonas Wresch/HelpAge International

(c) Jonah Wresch/HelpAge International

 

By Ben Small

Older campaigners are joining activists from all walks of life across the world today (24 September) to "light the way" to a future in which everyone can live free from suffering, poverty and neglect.

As the sun sets in each time zone, people are mobilising at over 70 vigils across every continent. They will illuminate the night around them with torches, candles and mobile phones as they stand together in solidarity under one sky.

This is the final action/2015 campaign moment before world leaders come together to formally adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) at the UN General Assembly in New York from 25-27 September.

Tell everyone

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the Global Goals and their role as a vital framework to a safe and secure future for everyone. The more people that know about them, the more pressure leaders will be under to fully commit to the new development agenda.

The HelpAge International team in London is joining more than 2,000 campaigners on Millennium Bridge at 6pm (BST) to spell out the word "Global Goals" with light. The action will be photographed and filmed, then delivered to the UN and 10 Downing Street, where the UK government will be reminded of its commitment.

Elsewhere across the world:

  • 2,000 campaigners of all ages are gathering in Ethiopia for a candlelit vigil.
  • In Nepal there will be a bicycle rally and walk through the capital Kathmandu.
  • A lit procession will travel the streets of Nairobi in Kenya.

Fighting for the inclusion of older people

Esther Wamera, a 78-year-old activist from Kenya, is using the day to emphasise that the future development agenda must include the voice of older people.

"Better planning, collection, disaggregation of data and accountability has to be a process that involves older people. Whatever you plan to do, if it happens without us it could be against us," she says.

"Let us come together as one people - one nation - and achieve this goal in our time. Not leaving anyone behind."

The year-long action/2015 campaign, which has garnered support from former archbishop Desmond Tutu and 18-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, has been dedicated to raising awareness of the SDGs.

"I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the Sustainable Development Goals," said Tutu.

Desmond Tutu speaks in support of action/2015 Desmond Tutu speaks in support of action/2015

Up to now, 30 million people have taken action with the campaign and it has the support of 2,000 organisations, networks and coalitions from 150 countries around the world.

The momentum of action/2015 has given older people high hopes that the next 15 years will bring real change. It has given them a voice for their issues to ensure that they are a part of the new sustainable development agenda.

"Older people have been left out of the development agenda for too long", said Toby Porter, Chief Executive Officer, HelpAge International.

"action/2015 has empowered older people around the world into standing up and demanding that they are counted.

"Age is mentioned in 15 out of the 17 SDGs. This is huge progress and we have the tireless, energetic campaigning of older activists to thank."

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Older persons are among the poorest and most marginalised in society today, but they offer an enormous potential for development tomorrow.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu