Today - 1 October 2018, the Centre for Human Rights, joins others in commemorating the International Day of Older Persons. The theme of this year’s observance, “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champion,” points to the leading role of older persons in championing human rights. The International Day of Older Persons is representative of a global push to prioritise, promote and protect the rights of ageing populations across regions. Current global trend shows an increase in the overall number of people who are living beyond the age of sixty. The 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Ageing posits that between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is 60 and above will double from 11 per cent to 22 per cent. By 2050, 2 billion of the world’s population will be 60 or older. Thus, it is critical that we focus on addressing the specific and unique needs of individuals as they grow older.

Although, traditionally the rights of older persons have been overlooked, there has been a gradual shift and broader framing of the rights and situation of older persons in recent years.  The rights of older persons are included in human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Charter), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Maputo Protocol) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons (Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons) . The Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons was adopted by member states of the African Union (AU) in 2016.

While these frameworks provide protections, older persons continue to face key challenges. The Centre is particularly concerned that age discrimination continues to impede the advancement of the rights of older persons, especially older women. This systematic stereotyping and discrimination against older persons (ageism) results in a dominant discourse that views them as unproductive, an inconvenience, burdensome, dependent and passive.  From healthcare access to treatment and care, ageing populations are often subject to age related discriminatory practices due to unique vulnerabilities. As we take today to celebrate the advancement of older persons in the human rights sphere, it is important to supplement this celebration with an urgent call to action.

The rights of older persons, especially older women, have been silent in public discourses, laws and policies. Older women are vulnerable to intersectional forms of institutional, familial, and communal abuse. They are often isolated, lack economic resources, and are often financially responsible for supporting family members.

This year, the Centre for Human Rights has launched its #AgeWithRights Campaign as both a call to action and a space for celebrating the lives of older persons with a focus on older women. The campaign, which focuses on creating awareness and strengthening the human rights of older persons in Africa, especially the rights of older women, is grounded in difficult conversations, increased scholarship, civil society advocacy, and intergenerational discourse around the relationship between rights and ageing. The campaign on the rights of older persons is geared towards encouraging AU member states to ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons; and engaging with activists, scholars, government officials, and experts alike to address the multifaceted nature of human rights in the context of ageing.

As we celebrate the milestones of this campaign, we recognise that our work is far from over. Today, on the International Day of Older Persons, we encourage the creation of an environment for older persons that allows ageing with dignity and their continued contribution to society. We call on member states of the AU to ratify the Protocol to ensure that older persons have a legally binding instrument from which their rights are promoted and protected.


For more information, please contact:

Satang Nabaneh

Project Officer: Women´s Rights Unit
Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria



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