Elders in Western Uganda demand Government to prioritize Social Protection to guarantee their well being

Published By UNNGOF |  August 5, 2014

A brief on key high lights from the Social protection dialogue between ULGA, NALCA and the elderly under NKOPA.

“The story of SAGE is a miracle in the lives of those who have lived it. It is like seeing Jesus walk on water.”  Hon. Karooro Okurut.

The Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) under the Uganda Social Protection platform and in partnership with Western Ankole CSO Forum (WACSOF) organized a one day meeting to engage officials of ULGA and NALCA with information, evidence in benefits, feasibility and affordability of Social Protection in order to advocate for the institution of Senior Citizens Grant.

The meeting, held on 16th June 2014 in Bushenyi was attended by at least 110 people that included elders, NALCA representatives, ULGA representatives, Uganda Reach the Aged Association-URAA, representatives from Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Media, Districts technical staff and political leaders. Participants came from 23 districts from Western Uganda including Bushenyi, Mitooma, Buwheju, Sheema, Rubirizi, Mbarara, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Ibanda, kanungu, kabale, Rukungiri, Kasese, Kamwenge, Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Bindibugyo, Kyegegwa, Ntoroko, Masindi, Kibaale and Hoima.

Ms. Sophie Kange, UNNGOF Coordinator Capacity Development, highlighted the identity of UNNGOF as one that provides a platform for citizens to engage on issues that affect development and people’s welfare. She noted that UNNGOF works through its structures to reach out to citizens at the grassroots level. For this cause therefore, UNNGOF worked with WACSOF to provide space for elders to advocate for their rights. She added that the main objective of the Uganda Social Protection platform was to promote increased awareness on social protection among key stakeholders.

The meeting fostered understanding of Social Protection and developed realistic proposals and approaches to influence processes towards the institution of a national Senior Citizen’s Grant (SCG) that meets citizens’ needs. Agreed upon action points helped further inform local government planning processes which ultimately would inform the National Planning process.

Mr. Tibasiimwa Joram, the Chairperson for Nkore Older Persons Association (NKOPA)-Bushenyi, shared a brief on the successes achieved so far; he mentioned projects like bee keeping, goat rearing, poultry, and tea growing among others that are supported by membership fees, subscriptions, donations and external funding. He highlighted key challenges such as social security fund and pension benefits being received by few of the older persons that have had formal employment; food insecurity; poor nutrition; limited accessibility to health service providers that treat old age diseases like high blood pressure and diabests especially at Health Centers IV and II; and Government programs like CDD only targeting young people.

“We request the ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development to formulate the guidelines for implementation of the policy that provides for elderly representation in District local councils and parliament,” said Mr. Tibasiimwa.

While officially opening the meeting, Mr. Isaac Kawooya, the Bushenyi District RDC thanked elders for supporting the president in the fight against Homosexuality and appreciated CSOs that work towards protecting people’s rights. He called upon NKOPA members to use all avenues to push forward their cause, he advised elders to invest in health insurance schemes so that they can regularly access treatment. Conversely, on a sad note he regretted the meeting had been organized after the budget reading and government had no budget provision to roll out the programme countrywide. He however encouraged them to engage their MPs so that the budget could be reviewed to favor their demands.

Commissioner Stephen Kasaija, representing the Chief Guest Hon. Mary karooro Okurut Minister for Gender Labour and Social Development read her speech. She appreciated the role played by CSOs in providing space for citizens to peacefully come together and deliberate on issues that concern their welfare. She was grateful to UNNGOF, WACSOF and NKOPa for the idea of supporting government by increasing awareness on social protection. Kasaija explained that the President demanded each district to produce its plan so as to roll out the SAGE in the whole country. However, the funds were limited, a reason why the programme was piloted in 14 districts. The Minister stressed the importance of all citizens to put emphasis on our traditional social protection mechanisms where children were tasked not to neglect their parents in old age. He noted that funders like World Bank and European Union were willing to provide funds to support the program however government was still developing a strategy of sustaining it just in case funders pulled out.

For in-depth understanding and appreciation of social protection issues in the various stakeholder groupings, a panel which comprised of representatives from ULGA, NALCA, NKOPA and a person from one of the beneficiary districts. This fostered sharing of experiences and aspirations on issues of the elderly and thereafter generated commitments on how to progress the social protection agenda.

Participants showed their discontent over government due to its poor planning for its citizens. It was noted that failure for government to enroll all the elders was evidence that it never cared about them. They reminded NRM government to remember that elders are the foundation of this country and need to be appreciated for their contribution to all the sectors like education and agriculture.

“Old age is wisdom, government should know that and appreciate us”…..a participant noted

Agreed upon action points included; seeking audience with the President, Local councils to make by-laws that ensure the elderly easily access services, Government operationalizing the elders act at Local government level; They also re-echoed the need for an MP for the elderly and elderly desk in the office of the President for easy lobbying; embrace peer learning to galvanize impact, strengthen collaborations with CSOs to maximize impacts on social protection.

The 8 action points were to be followed up by an 8 man task force which was constituted from the regions of Rwenzori, Tooro, Kigezi, Ankole, Bunyoro, ULGA, NALCA, and NKOPA. In a nutshell, the generated concerns would be useful in informing the Ministry planning in the roll out Phase of the SAGE program.