AgeWatch Index

AgeWatch Index

Image by HelpAge International

Monday 21 March 2016 - Human Rights day in South Africa

On the eve of human rights day in South Africa (Monday 21 March), HelpAge International has welcomed the adoption of a protocol on older people’s rights across Africa. 

The African Union protocol covers a range of rights including access to health services, freedom from discrimination and the right to employment, social protection and education, providing a framework for governments to protect these rights.

There are 66.5 million people aged 60 and over in Africa, predicted to reach 105 million by 2030[1].

HelpAge International is now urging African Union governments to ratify the protocol this year, which was declared the African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the rights of women.

“This is a significant step by our governments with the potential to protect the rights of millions of older men and women and prepare for future changing demographics,” said Dr Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director at HelpAge International, East West and Central Africa.

 “We must now work with governments to ensure that the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa is ratified. The adoption of the protocol provides us with a powerful advocacy tool to engage at national and regional levels for its implementation,” said Mishra.

Director of Social Affairs Department of the African Union Dr Olawale Maiyegun reiterated the commitment of the Union in advancing the rights of older people. “If implemented well, this protocol will change the lives of older people in Africa and allow them to live with dignity,” he said following the 26th Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.   

In a 2012 HelpAge International survey of older people in Mozambique, 74 per cent of respondents said they had experienced at least one form of violence and abuse since the age of 50, 22 per cent said their health needs had been neglected, 30 per cent said they had been refused work, while 27 per cent said they had been refused a loan[2].

Older women are particularly affected, facing discrimination due to both their age and sex. Half the women respondents said they’d been subjected to emotional abuse, 18 per cent to physical abuse and 5 per cent to sexual abuse since the age of 50. However, there’s no way to know the full extent of this violence and abuse as data on violence against women in Africa is rarely available beyond the age of 49 and older women themselves are reluctant to talk about or report the violence they experience[3].

“The African Union Heads of State have shown commendable leadership and foresight,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive of HelpAge International. “It is a commitment that will empower older people to claim their rights and enable them to live dignified lives.”


About HelpAge International 

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.

 [1] Calculated from World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision,

[2] Developing an indicator-based framework for monitoring older people’s human rights: panel, survey and key findings for Peru , Mozambique and Kyrgyzstan, HelpAge International and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, 2013

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