Yezeshewal Eshete, Ethiopia

Yezeshewal Eshete, Ethiopia campaigns for elder health care services and pensions.

Championing Older People's Rights in Ethiopia

This interview has been edited for context and brevity.


How did you get involved in campaigning for older people’s rights?

I worked in government for 35 years. During my time in public service, I saw that many of my colleagues faced a lot of issues around retirement. It’s a complicated, difficult process to get a pension, and even if you’re able to complete it, the pension amount is too low to meet basic needs.

Many older women and men in Ethiopia face a lot of discrimination. In hospitals, they don't get proper treatment. There aren’t doctors who specialize in older people's health issues. Lawyers and judges behave very rudely toward older people, who then become reluctant to go to the courts to exercise their legal rights.

I helped form the Ethiopian Elders & Pensioners National Association (EEPNA) to advocate for the protection of older people's rights.


What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it?

We are campaigning for income security and access to quality healthcare services in Ethiopia. We are meeting with government officials, highlighting the issues at different forums and marching to raise awareness.


Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner 

Campaigning as part of Age Demands Action makes me proud. We do many activities on international days, meeting with government officials and marching for our rights. Decision-makers have promised us many things. Some have promised to allocate land for older people's shelters and others have promised us healthcare, but we’re still waiting for action. 


What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person? 

Age Demands Action has built my capacity as an advocate. I have met with policymakers and older people in different areas of the country. These interactions have enabled me to understand grassroots issues and raise these issues with decision makers when I meet with them.


How are things improving for older people in your country? 

Older people's associations have been formed in different parts of the country. These are the platforms where older people discuss their issues and then make plans to raise them with the government. This is a big change from before. 

Our campaigning has led to the construction of an older people's center and has made civil society organizations more sensitive to older people's issues. They are now including older people in their policies. But, there is still a lot more to be done.



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