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An unplanned life leads to insecurity for the elderly

I regret my life!” exclaims Sayudda Nasazza, a resident of Kabalagala, a Kampala suburb in Uganda in East Africa.

Now in her old age, Sayudda is a hawker. She walks door-to-door selling second-hand clothes.

Living in a one-roomed house with her four children and ten grandchildren, she often feels overwhelmed as the demands of providing for her family can be a great challenge.

When her husband passed on many years ago Sayudda had to resort to working any sort of odd job as a means of survival. Life circumstances had meant she never got the opportunity to obtain the education needed to get well-paying jobs.

Poverty plays a major impact on the peace and security in one’s life. Where there is no financial strength there is no comfort and no safety.

For Sayudda’s daughters, life had also not been easy as they sought refuge in the home they grew up in when their marriages failed. Some experienced abandonment by their partners – A common issue that is happening in Uganda where a high number of fathers in the country are seen to be abandoning their responsibilities to look after their children and wives.

As her daughters also missed out on higher education and they struggle to find jobs to help their mum and support their children too.

With the family’s loss of siblings, some of Sayudda’s grandchildren living with her are in her care full time.

Life has not been easy for the elderly lady and the trials and tribulations seem to be in excess amount.

Elsewhere in Mengo Kisenyi located in Kampala, Uganda, Akiiki Businge comes with her two grandchildren to the basement in one of Kampala’s buildings. She is too old to ferry tea and run the business in order to survive.

Her grandchildren do not go to school, and her oldest grandaughter got pregnant and dropped out of school.

Every morning they come with a giant kettle of tea. They pay a man to transport the kettle of tea on a bicycle to the building. Here the two children sell the tea. They ferry it from the building, selling it to different shops until the tea is finished.

During the day they have to eat food and pay rent for their space: “We have to sell the tea so that we survive along with our grandmother. This is our main source of income,” says Akiiki’s eight-year-old, grandson.

“We have to save at least one thousand shillings a day to pay for the house rent back home, our house rent is forty thousand shillings. We also have to buy other basic needs and also support our grandmother,” he adds.

The three are struggling to live above the poverty line that is earning above three thousand shillings a day. It is hard especially as their grandmother depends on them.

On a bad day, the city council authorities capture their kettle and cups and sometimes arrest them for operating in the city Illegally. This puts their lives at stake as they remain vulnerable.

Living in the city which comes with chaotic city riots, Akiiki and her grandchildren face the risks of getting knocked down by speeding vehicles, raped by the city goons, hit by stray bullets and facing other sorts of dangers they can never prepare for.

One of the girls, fifteen years old, shares her experience of how they had to sleep hungry for two days in the city in one of the malls. There was a riot, they had no money and her grandmother was too weak to walk any further.

She recalled a particularly harrowing incident: “We slept hungry in the city. I didn’t know where my brother had disappeared to. We later found out that he had found his way home. He walked for nine kilometres,”

“On reaching home he found our house empty as well, our two mattresses and stove had been taken by thieves,” she continues, “That day my grandmother fainted in the city as she choked on the tear gas shot in the air by the riot police.”

It was passersby that helped her recover with first aid.

“We lead a risky and unsafe life every day, we need peace and security,” Akiiki’s granddaughter cries out.

This kind of unplanned life is so insecure.

The children do not have peace just like their ageing grandmother. They live in fear. All they do is work and fend for their grandmother. Such a child will not grow up to love their community and thus their country.

Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support.

Policies and agendas on peace and security

In Africa, the elderly continue to live poor and insecure lives yet one of the main agendas under the African Union agenda 2063 is peace and security for all. In 2015 the African Union noted as part of the agenda 2063, that African countries would provide for inclusiveness by allowing for the rights of the elderly in society.

It is observed that the elderly are the ones that always understand the African culture. They emphasise it and this way passes it on to the younger generation.

The African Union has in place an AU policy framework on the plan of Action on ageing (AUPFAA) to protect the rights of elderly people.

All over the world people are ageing at a speedier rate than in the past and this is going to have a great impact on society. It is estimated that there are more than 1 billion people that are aged 60 years or older, especially in developing countries.

A number of the elderly do not have access to basic needs to live a decent life. The UN is ensuring the process of implementing the policies for older persons through organised assemblies where people learn and have their views represented.

The policy will have a number of options including long-term incomes, and integrated and gender-responsive care systems to reduce heavy responsibilities on family caretakers and family support.

Governments should give some packages to caregivers to save elderly lives. When it comes to natural ageing, women are more affected than men in both developing and developed countries.

In most cases, it is the women that have to work hard to cater for orphans, spouses, and other loved ones. Many women go through childbearing and a lot of labour, thus having their bodies weakened. They, therefore, need extra care if they are to live longer and even care for their dependents.

In Africa, there is an ongoing pattern of migration where the youth are vacating the continent for greener pastures in western countries and the Arab world. Due to this, in the near future, children will not be able to look after their parents.

Solutions from leaders and experts have been posited. For instance, the commissioner for sports in the Ministry of Education and Sports Reverend Canon Duncan Mugumya noted in a speech that children must enjoy their childhoods through sports and play if their minds are to be properly developed. “You find an eight-year-old looking frail like an adult and you wonder!” he exclaims.

Parents should stop imposing their duties on children and do their duties of supporting them through education.

Organisations like Kalinaki Foundation for the elderly people have come up with a vision of a world of happiness and a home for the elderly. Their mission statement is a world of hope and love for the elderly. Their main objectives are to advocate and lobby for better living conditions for the elderly at all levels. It also includes mobilising with other organisations to help improve access elderly people have to resources for their welfare.

This organisation is also striving to improve intergenerational solidarity dialogue and senior citizen forums in determining future development agendas for a better Uganda.

Kalinaki Foundation also aims to protect old people against any form of discrimination and empower them economically, socially, and politically. This is so they can actively participate in decision-making and production at the household level.

Some of the elderly have worked all of their lives for government institutions. However, when they retire it is hard for them to get their pension due to the complicated system.

Mr Ocheng, a resident of Katabi in Entebbe, has suffered from prostate cancer for quite a long time. He had tried early on to get his savings but had been frustrated by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) management. He is grateful for the new policy that was approved by the parliament of Uganda to access his money from the NSFF.

“When the NSFF further declared a 20.75% interest rate for its members that have been saving,” he tells us, “It was then that I accessed my savings which I used to start a poultry farm and now, I can treat my old age ailments.”

Two years ago, the parliament of Uganda approved proposals that provide for midterm access to the NSSF savings. The house also then deleted clause 19 which subjected the members’ savings to an income tax levy of 30% upon withdrawal. The principal allows midterm access to NSSF members who have saved for at least ten years and have reached the age of 45 years. The NSFF currently has 1.5 million members.

Tonny Mugisha, an expert in insurance and the CEO of Eiton Capital, says that “The elderly must have planned it before they went to retirement if they didn’t then it’s too late.”

He adds: “One thing the elderly must have is medical insurance and should be the best plan covering their healthcare.”

Mugisha further adds that “Their incomes should be twice their monthly income, it’s what we consider while doing financial planning.” He also notes that sensitisation on planning for a life to be lived is as important.

Kato, a trainer at Alpha gym in Entebbe, says Human beings should keep exercising their bodies as this can help them during their old age. “Exercise will keep you free from ailments that lead to inconveniencing others in your old age,” he says. “Depending on others is a major destruction of peace and being frail and disabled makes one prone to insecurity. Let’s exercise so that we will maintain peace amongst us in our old age.” Kato says.

Preacher Mubiru Patrick says many people in Africa do not plan because of limitations including having fatalistic mindsets.

“They think that whatever they attempt might fail but also some people have unending debts and therefore cannot save,” he explains, “Others generally have poor saving skills and some have unstable incomes or a dependency syndrome that limits them from having a peaceful and secure retirement.”

One Ugandan cardiologist, Batambuzze Ephraim,  goes on to add that maintaining health by practising good habits among humans prevents disease and ailments thus promoting peace in the world.

He goes on to say a healthy body is a healthy mind. “If we have health-minded individuals then we have peace in the world.”

This story is part of the African Women in Media (AWiM) Peace and Security Journalism Programme in partnership with UNESCO, through the IPDC framework. 

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DR. YEMISI AKINBOBOLA

C.E.O & Co-founder, AWiM

Dr Yemisi Akinbobola is an award-winning journalist, academic, consultant and co-founder of African Women in Media (AWiM). AWiM’s vision is that one-day African women will have equal access to representation in media. Joint winner of the CNN African Journalist Award 2016 (Sports Reporting), Yemisi ran her news website IQ4News between 2010-14.
Yemisi holds a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies from Birmingham City University, where she is a Senior Lecturer. She has published scholarly research on women’s rights, African feminism, and journalism and digital public spheres. She was Editorial Consultant for the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 commemorative book titled “She Stands for Peace: 20 Years, 20 Journeys”, and currently hosts the book’s podcast.
She speaks regularly on issues relating to gender and media. In 2021 she was recognized as one of 100 Most Influential African Women.