Yezeshewal Eshete campaigns for the health and security of older people in Ethiopia.

Untold stories: Yezeshewal Eshete, Ethiopia

I was born in a rural area called Wollo in north Ethiopia. Later I moved to the capital Addis Ababa for my education. I receive a pension and my daughters also support me.  
I worked in the Government for 35 years. Since retiring as a secretary in the Ministry of Finance, I have been involved in campaigning for older people’s rights. I am one of the founding member of Ethiopian Elders & Pensioners National Association (EEPNA).    
During my time at the Government office, I saw that many of my colleagues faced a lot of issues after their retirement. It was a complicated and difficult process for them to get pensions, and then these were so little that they were not able to meet their basic needs. I formed EEPNA and am now actively advocating for protection of older people’s rights.

Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?

I can’t remember any specific time when I have faced discrimination because I am an older woman. However, many older women and men in Ethiopia face a lot of discrimination. In hospitals, they don’t get proper treatment. You cannot find doctors who specialise in older people’s health issues. Lawyers and judges behave very rudely with older people, who then become reluctant to go to the courts to exercise their legal rights. 

Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner  

Campaigning as part of Age Demands Action makes me proud. We do many activities on international days, we meet with Government officials and do marches as well. Decision-makers have promised us many things in different meetings and events. Some of them promised to allocate land for older people’s shelters and others promised us healthcare, but still we are waiting for practical actions.  

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

We are campaigning for income security and access to quality healthcare services in Ethiopia. We are meeting with Government officials, highlighting the issues at different forums and marching to raise awareness. 

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

Age Demands Action has built my capacity. I have met with the policymakers, I have met with older women and men in different areas of the country. This enabled me to understand grassroots issues. When we meet decision-makers I raise these with them. I feel empowered and confident. 

How are things improving for older people in your country?  

One change is that older people’s associations have been formed in different parts of the country. These are the platforms where older people discuss their issues and then make plans to raise these with the Government. This is a big change, it is the first step on the ladder.  
Our campaigning has led to the construction of an older people’s centre and has made civil society organisations more sensitive to older people’s issues. They are now including older people in their policies. But still there is lot more to be done.
The most important issue for older people is access to medicines. Secondly, very few older people receive pensions, and most do not have any independent source of income. Older women are struggling to excercise their legal rights. 

Do you have a message for other older people around the world? 

Older people all over the world should work together for change. Especially older people in Africa. They must share their experiences with each other.  

And finally, what would your perfect world look like?  

Actually, I do not believe that there can be a perfect world, but I wish for a world with more peace, prosperity and happiness.  
With thanks to HelpAge office in Ethiopia.
Read more stories from older campaigners.