Civil society upbeat, as Rwanda ratifies continental protocol on rights of elderly

The Government of Rwanda on Tuesday signed the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons and signaled a significant commitment to protect and promote the rights of old people in Rwanda.

The protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed by Rwanda’s Ambassador to the African Union, Hope Tumukunde Gasatura in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Reacting to the news, Elie Mugabowishema, the CEO of Nsindagiza, a civil society group in Rwanda that advocates for the rights of the elderly, termed the move as timely.

“We now have hope that the government will follow this up with the ratification and domesticate the provisions of the Protocol into our national laws,” said Mugabowishema, whose organization is a network member of HelpAge International Global Network.

Founded in 2014, Nsindagiza was established to support disadvantaged older people, especially those with disabilities or chronic diseases. It focuses on healthcare and advocacy.

This year has seen quite a number of governments in the region committing to the protocol, with Rwanda becoming the 14th African country to have signed the Protocol.

Dr. Prafulla Mishra, the Regional Director of HelpAge International said Rwanda has done the right thing for its older population.

Made of 149 member organizations in 87 countries, HelpAge International is a Global Network whose common goal of creating a fairer world for older people so they can live safe, healthy and dignified lives.

The ratification of the Protocol means that a member state has domesticated the Protocol within their national laws and policies.

Benin and Lesotho remain the only countries to have ratified and domesticated the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons.

The continent will benefit most if the countries that have already ratified the protocol could rally other member states that have not signed and ratified to do so, in order that the target threshold of 15 could be reached for the protocol to come in force.

Adopted in January 2016, the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons is the product of many years of consultations and brought to the fore commitments made by African states in the 2002 African Union Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing.

 In Africa, older people have always played an important role in the community through their contribution to a number of areas such as caring for orphaned grandchildren and providing much-needed household income.

Prafulla said the aging of the world population is progressive and rapid and that it is an unprecedented phenomenon that is affecting nearly all countries of the world.

“As long as fertility continues to fall or remains low and old-age mortality keeps on declining, the proportion of older people will continue to increase, and Governments and societies will need to look at ways in which the needs and well-being of older people are taken care of, while at the same time adjusting to the changing population demographics,” he said.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates the population of people above the age of 60 in Africa at 65 million today, the figure which is projected to increase to 220 million by 2050.

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