By Rachel Trayner and Sarah Marzouk
15 June marks the first officially recognised, "United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day" (WEAAD). Millions of people around the world are holding events to raise awareness of a growing and global injustice. Elder abuse – whether physical, psychological, financial, sexual or a form of neglect – is a violation of older people's human rights. (C) HelpAge International
Calling on governments to end discrimination
Older people in 18 countries across the world, are marking the day by coming together as part of Age Demands Action for Rights (ADA).
ADA for Rights is a global campaign calling on governments to end discrimination by pledging their support for high level talks at the UN, which could lead to a new international convention on the rights of older people.
In Kyrgyzstan for example, there will be a photo exhibition to raise awareness of abuse. A public debate will be held in Serbia to discuss the risks and ways of preventing abuse, discrimination and neglect of older people. There will be marches in Haiti, Ecuador and Kenya, and elder abuse will feature on national television in Peru and on community radio in Thailand.
Mama Rhoda who is marching for older people's rights in Kenya has been an Age Demands Action activist since 2009. She said: "ADA has made me an ambassador for older people. It has taught me that older people have rights which should be respected by all."
Lack of government attention
Older people's rights are protected under international human rights law, but specific reference to them is rare. The existing commitments are not enshrined in human rights treaties and governments have no legal obligation to implement them.
As a result, governments pay little attention to older people's rights. Most governments do not see older people as rights holders with responsibilities, but only as recipients of welfare. This needs to change.
UN convention on older people's rights
A new UN convention on the rights of older people is necessary to bring about this change. It would provide governments with a legal framework, guidance and support to help them protect older people's rights.
A convention would:
- Oblige governments to adopt non-discriminatory laws and allocate their budget more fairly across age groups.
- Require governments to collect data broken down by age to inform policy decisions.
- Encourage governments to design age-sensitive programmes, and train service providers, for example, health workers, on ageing issues.
- Encourage governments to take a stand against discrimination.
- Provide a system to monitor government action and hold them to account.
Show your support: Sign the petition!
Over the past five years, campaigners around the world have been collecting signatures for the Age Demands Action petition which supports a UN convention on older people's rights. Over 32,000 people from more than 130 countries have signed the petition so far and we are hoping to reach 50,000 by the end of July. (C) HelpAge International
Richard Blewitt, HelpAge CEO said:
"Our rights do not change as we grow older. Sadly, what does change is that older women and men are considered to be inherently less valuable to society. ADA for Rights is sending a clear message that campaigners think the rights of older people are important enough to protect and promote.
"I hope as many people as possible sign our petition so that governments know they must take part in talks, which could pave the way for a convention. Without their contribution, there is a danger older people will be yet again left behind. If that happens, governments are neglecting to challenge discrimination that older people suffer on a daily basis."
Read more about Age Demands Action for Rights.