African leaders urged to adopt protocol on the rights of older people

Addis Ababa, 26 January 2016: African heads of state are being urged to adopt a protocol on older people’s rights by organisations representing older people across the continent, at the 26th Summit of the African Union meeting in Ethiopia this week.

Dr Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director at HelpAge International said, "Adoption of this Protocol provides the opportunity for African heads of state to demonstrate their commitment to every African’s human rights, at every stage of their life. It is a fitting way to mark the beginning of 2016: African Year of Human Rights."

The letter to heads of state has been written by HelpAge International and endorsed by 34 organisations working with older people across the continent. In addition, to urging heads of state to adopt the protocol, it asks them to continue to show leadership by ensuring that the protocol is ratified and deposited with the African Union Commission, as well as developing plans and strategies to domesticate and implement the protocol at all levels.

"Adopting the protocol would be an act of commendable leadership and foresight on your part," said Toby Porter, Chief Executive at HelpAge International, signing the letter.

“It is a commitment that will empower older people to claim their rights and enable them to live dignified lives.”

According to UN data, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa, would protect the rights of 66.5 million older Africans if it is adopted. This is predicted to rise to over 105 million by 2030.[1]

"This protocol provides a framework for governments to end ageism and discrimination against older people in Africa," said Jamillah Mwanjisi, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at HelpAge International, East, West and Central Africa.

"Adopting the Protocol would be a significant step by governments and provide them with a framework to help them meet their human rights obligations towards people in older age. It also provides us with an advocacy tool which we can use to challenge the ageist attitudes and behaviour that occur at every level of society, from the individual up to large institutions."

The protocol reaffirms the rights of older people in Africa and outlines what governments must do to protect them. It covers a wide range of rights including prohibition of all forms of discrimination against older people; access to justice and equal protection before the law; the right to make decisions; protection from abuse and harmful traditional practices; the right to care and support; and the rights to employment, social protection, health, and access to education, transport and credit facilities, amongst others.

Older people often face harmful, negative ageist attitudes and behaviour towards them. 

When asked how they were discriminated against, an older person from Cameroon said, "The doctor avoids touching me when consulting me."

A man from Uganda said, "I am considered a spent force with nothing left to contribute to society, that I have had my turn and should give way to the youth."

An older person from South Africa said, "South Africa is no different to most other nations, in that older persons often are discriminated against or experience inequality in society." [2]

Older women and men are also denied their human rights across different aspects of their lives. They are subjected to different types of violence and abuse, denied access to health care and an adequate standard of living and treated with disrespect because of their older age.

In a study conducted by HelpAge International in Mozambique in 2012, 74% of older people surveyed said they had experienced at least one form of violence and abuse since the age of 50, 22% said their health needs had been neglected, 30% said they had been refused work, while 27% said they had been refused a loan. More than half (51%) said that other people looked down at them and or treated them in a humiliating, shameful or degrading way.[3]

Note to Editors:

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.

Media Contacts:

1. Henry Neondo, Media Relations Officer, in Nairobi on Tel +254 703618872/ +254-(20)-2637853/4 Email:

2. Jamillah Mwanjisi, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, HelpAge International, East West and Central Africa, Skype: Jamillah.mwanjisi; Email:

3. Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, London on Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623. Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624; email:; Skype: sarah.gillam.hai (HelpAge)

[1] Calculated from World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision, Visited 25/01/16

[2] In Our Own Words: What older people say about discrimination and human rights in older age, Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, 2015

[3] Developing an indicator-based framework for monitoring older people’s human rights: panel, survey and key findings for Peru , Mozambique and Kyrgyzstan, HelpAge International and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, 2013


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