Working with local government leaders, Zainabu has supported a group of older people to improve their income.

Untold stories: Zainabu Mukarulinda, Rwanda

I live with my husband and four adopted children as I was not lucky to have my own children. I do business selling honey, as well as saving and lending activities within older people’s associations to get money for our family’s basic needs. 

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

I was sensitised on older people’s rights by my colleague Felicien, who is a member of the organisation Nsindagiza, and then I began campaigning.

Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age? 

I did not experience any discrimination because of my age, but I have a neighbour who is older and a housekeeper, and her son does not take care of her. He refuses to let her attend the church of her choice. She stays at home caring for the grandchildren and she cannot exercise her rights.

Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner

With the president of Nsindagiza and other older people, I have participated in Age Demands Action campaigns. I met with the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion to advocate for the rights of older people, and met with the district officials to mobilise them to be involved in our campaigns. I’m always being asked to talk on the radio with government officials. I share my testimony at Radio Huguka and I’m proud of it. 

Have you met a decision-maker? What was the outcome? 

I met the Huye district officials and following our meeting, the district supported our Elderly Support Group by providing us one million Rwanda francs (US$1,150). We used the money to buy livestock such as goats and hens, and sorghum to sell when the prices rise. When we met with Nyirasafari Espérance, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, it was my first time speaking on behalf of others. I felt valued when she applauded my intervention and shared with us the commitment to include older people in different government programmes.

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

We are campaigning for our rights to be considered within the community, to be visited by our local government leaders who can guarantee that we are able to access all services we are entitled to. We want to raise our voices through older people’s associations and start activities that could decrease our economic vulnerability.

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

We have increased our solidarity and love. We know the challenges each other face, and we share our joys and sorrows. We look for solutions to our problems, decrease our dependence on others who consider older people as a burden.  

How are things improving for older people in your country?

Older people in my community are not facing solitude and loneliness. They raise their voices easily when they meet. They dance and laugh despite any poor health or poverty.

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

I would like to tell them that to be old is not a misfortune, it is a stage of life. Older people must fight against solitude and loneliness. We are human beings who should enjoy the same rights as others.

And finally, what would your perfect world look like? 

My perfect world is where older people receive all the care they need, where they are not harassed due to their age and where all generations listen to their wisdom and advice. 
With thanks to HelpAge global network member NSINDAGIZA
Read more stories from older campaigners.