After discovering the lack of specialised care and drugs for non-communicable diseases, Margaret started to campaign for improved health services for older people.

Untold stories: Margaret Kabango, Uganda

I live in a division of Kampala city in Uganda. I love the place and it gives me peace of mind. I live with my daughter, grandchildren, two orphans and my stepsons… I currently get a pension and grow passion fruits, onions and greens. My daughter helps me to raise chickens and I have a small-scale mushroom incubator.  
I was once a government health worker at the level of Senior Principal Physiotherapist by the time I retired from active service. 

How did you get involved in campaigning for older people’s rights? 

I was inspired to get involved when I discovered the lack of specialised care and drugs for non-communicable diseases, which were mostly affecting older people. They were not there nor were they planned for. This made me not happy – and from that day I decided to link up with the Uganda Reach the Aged Association, since I worked for the Ministry of Health. 

Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?  

When I went to the nutritional department to ask for guidelines, I realised there was no plan for older people – instead they were looking at young children. This made me feel discriminated against.  
Up to now there are still no drugs for older people with non-communicable diseases and this to me is still discriminatory. I once met some older women who felt discriminated against due to their age as they could not get services from health officials.  
And on transport, most young conductors try to hurry us when we want to embark or disembark from their taxi, since we move slowly. But largely most others treat us well. 
Discrimination, where boys rape their own grandparents, is the worst form of violence. They threaten to kill them for their property. 

Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner 

My proudest moment was when Uganda passed a number of polices. These included the National Policy for Older Persons (2009), the National Council for Older Persons Act (2013) and regulations in 2015. I was so proud as I participated in the whole process and development of these policies.  

What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it? 

Currently I am still campaigning for improved health services for older people at the nearest health centres. I want intensified and free checks on diabetes and blood pressure among older people. I will meet with the relevant people in the Ministry of Health and if they can put in place guidelines detailing this. 
I am also campaigning for special seats for older people in the health centres so that they can be served without discrimination and on time. I also want to see health camps once a month for older people.  
The same should be also in the banks where there is a person to deal with older people properly – and the same for the transport business.  

What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person?  

My confidence has been built, especially since they now hear us and know us. The media also needs to be brought on board to understand and know us.  
I am more empowered. I am now a respected person and I am appreciated by boda boda (motorised taxis) who even run errands for me. 

How are things improving for older people in your country?  

There is SAGE (Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment), loosely translated as an older people’s grant, that provides us with some money. We have a council where older people can have their voices heard. We have woken up to demand their rights. The International Day of Older Persons brings us all together to raise our voices.  

What needs to be done to improve the situation further? 

We need a funding framework and programmes within the service delivery to be scaled up by the government. 
An international convention on the rights of older people will draw older people to share their experiences – leading to a common understanding and good practice in protecting older people’s rights. The convention will bring out the needs, rights and contributions of the older people to society.  
With thanks to HelpAge global network member Uganda Reach the Aged Association.
Read more stories from older campaigners.