Achievements of older people in Bangladesh

Campaign to gather signatures to the ADA petition. © BohubrihiBangladesh was one of the first countries to get involved in the Age Demands Action (ADA) campaign which began in 2007.

Throughout this journey older people have used the campaign to ask for a national policy on ageing and to raise awareness about a UN convention of the rights of older people have seen significant national achievements over the past two years.

helpageThe campaign started with only handful of people and one affiliate, the Resource Integration Center (RIC). It has since grown, and now has the capacity to mobilise more than 55,000 people. This is thanks to the support of our three incredible affiliates, older people, partners and older people’s federations.

Through our partners we have learned the importance of raising awareness through campaigning, holding training workshops with older campaigners, influencing policy makers and engaging the media and decision makers to better understand older people’s issues.

From the beginning, we encouraged the government to formulate a policy that would focus on the needs older people. This followed the creation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing in April 2002, which was agreed by 159 governments including Bangladesh.

The HelpAge network and ADA campaigners have built strong relationships with the Ministry of Social Welfare and inform them about issues that impact older people. In 2012, the Ministry joined us in observing the International Day of Older People nationwide.

Finally, in November 2013 the cabinet approved a National Policy for Older People and the policy was put in place the following February. This policy has the potential to protect older people’s health, social protection and safety.

Collecting petition signatures for a UN convention on the rights of older people has always been a big campaign drive in Bangladesh. On key campaign days, people of all ages come together to collect petition signatures.

Our partners and affiliates bring people together and set up booths with balloons and banners; making it feel like a festival. It’s a chance for older people to come together and encourage their communities to sign the ADA petition and support older people.

So far we have collected 80,644 signatures. In June this year for the ADA for Rights campaign we collected 39,366 signatures in just two weeks. This shows how the campaign and support for a convention has grown.

National Human Rights Commission campaigners have continued their lobbying with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They met Dr Mizanur Rahman, the Chair of the NHRC and handed over the ADA petition in June 2013. They asked him to promote the rights of older people and to take their issues to an international level.

This year, older campaigners again visited Dr Rahman and spoke about the need for a UN convention and the importance of sending a representative to the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA).

As a result, a representative attended the meeting and stated that more needed to be done to protect older people’s rights.

Links between generations

An important element of the campaign has been to increase links between older and younger people. We have worked with the Dhaka University Debating Society to host debates on older people’s rights.

50 young volunteers from an urban-based NGO created an initiative to visit older people in their community and to spend time with them on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 15 June. The older people involved were happy to share their stories and spend time with younger people.

Support from the media

One of the major challenges for the ADA campaign in Bangladesh has been to engage the media about ageing issues and older people’s rights. Last September we held a workshop with 17 journalists focusing on older people’s rights and the need for a convention. As a result, we received more media coverage this year.

There are a number of factors that have allowed the ADA campaign to grow and be successful in Bangladesh. These include conducting training sessions with older campaigners and the media, building relationships with decision makers, creating intergenerational partnerships and following up on policy asks.

Our affiliates and partners have also been crucial to our success. We look forward to the campaign growing and seeing what we will achieve in the future!