In her capacity as the Africa Ambassador for CommonAge (CommonWealth Association for the Ageing), Tafta CEO, Femada Shamam attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda from 20-25 June 2022.  The theme of the meeting was, ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming.’

With the Commonwealth countries representing 30% of the world’s population, this was an important platform to lobby and advocate on an international stage for the inclusion of older people’s issues on the development agenda. Because, only if world leaders see this as a critical issue, can we expect the relevant allocation of resources and support.

No priority focus on the elderly

As the Commonwealth is represented in the majority by 60% youth (under 30 years), there was no priority focus on the elderly. Yet it is important to make provision for their care, as well as the need to address the marginalisation of older people who were, and still are, vulnerable to the Global Pandemic as well as other global crises.

Prior to the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Foundation Fora; People, Women, Youth and Business hosted their plenary sessions to put forward their recommendations to the Heads of Government. It was encouraging that The Women’s Forum did highlight the role of older people and acknowledged the value of their indigenous knowledge in the development agenda.

Rwanda News Interview

Femada attended various plenaries and fora to ensure that the voice of older people was heard. In between, she was interviewed on Rwanda News on the role older women play in achieving sustainable development, by sharing experience and wisdom. She urged that older people be included in the development agenda, and seen as partners in this journey towards an inclusive Commonwealth – “A Commonwealth for all Ages”.

Among the issues discussed at the Heads of Government meeting were the Global Pandemic, at which delegates expressed their sorrow at the loss of life and livelihood resulting from the pandemic; ongoing global conflicts and the associated loss of lives and infrastructure; nutrition, food and energy security (also affected by global conflicts), which also affects migration patterns; and deep concern about the climate crisis.

Key outcomes

The outcome resulted in 117 key points centred around:

  • Governance, Human Rights and the Rule of Law focusing on the Rule of Law, Gender Equality and Delivering Good Governance
  • Sustainability focusing on Economy, Small States, Trade, the urgent threat of Climate Change, Ocean Protection, Sustainable Blue Economies, Energy and Natural Resources
  • Health, focusing on strengthening health systems and rapid response capacities, reduction on incidence of non-communicable and communicable diseases
  • Youth focusing on youth participation, youth and employment, education, transport safety, sport for development and peace
  • Technology and Innovation focusing on cyberspace, sustainable urbanisation: smart and resilient sustainable cities and communities.

“We support for the call for the Convention on the Rights of Older Persons (UNCROP) to be adopted by the United Nations as this would be an international instrument which would give effect to the rights of older persons across the world,” said Femada.

CHOGM 2024

“It is hoped that we spend the next two years advocating strongly for this to be adopted, and when CHOGM is held in 2024 in Samoa, the Commonwealth can lead the way in having practical and implementable initiatives in upholding the rights of those communities most at risk, including older persons.”

Femada believes that she would have succeeded with her mission if she helped ensure a future world in which her child could be proud, happy and able to grow old.

Her efforts are centred around care and support to older people but also around innovation, future care, access and inclusion of older people. She believes that the biggest hindrance to inclusivity is “ageism” and encourages people to see the value older people bring. This can be best demonstrated by the lobbying and advocacy efforts to combat ageism and creating a future for all ages!

Tafta’s role in advocating for the rights of elders

In South Africa, Tafta is the only elder care organisation advocating for the rights of our elders at local, national and international level. We are at the forefront of a global movement towards an inclusive future for older people.  As an organisation, province and country, we remain in touch with lobbying efforts, best practices and innovation – with a strategic global focus to include, care for, and provide accessible support for older people in our communities.

These efforts are further strengthened through our recent membership of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older Persons (GAROP). Established in 2011 to strengthen the voice for the rights of older people globally, GAROP now has 380 members across 80 countries.