Capacity Building For Joint Advocacy A Case For Special Interest Groups In Uganda
With the endorsement of the National Policy for Older Persons in 2009, the National Council for Older Person Act 2013 and the National Council for Older Persons Regulations 2015 in Uganda, the need to elect older person leaders from the village, parish, sub-counties, Districts, Regions and at the Parliament level became paramount this, however, came with a myriad of challenges namely;
Inadequate capacity by members in governance, lobby and evidence-based advocacy, URAA with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has since 2016 undertaken to bridge this gap with Capacity Building interventions for older person councils at the District level so far 38 Districts
Older People are recognized as one of the most vulnerable groups and also categorized as Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which also include Older Persons, Women, Youth, Persons Living with Disability (PwD) and most recently Workers. SIGs in Uganda are united by close to or similar challenges like Health, socioeconomic (poverty), and HIV/AIDS, amongst many others.
These challenges required action and for this reason URAA since 2017 sought for efforts to coordinate the SIGs to rally their support and therefore form an Alliance for Advocacy which could be propelled to become a vehicle for joint advocacy and therefore ‘Joint wins’ or ‘Join gains’ in their respective localities but also at the national level. This approach has since been appreciated by many Districts and beneficiaries in communities for leading to various policy and economic changes.
Districts like Ntungamo (2022), Mukono (2015), Bushenyi, and Mubende (2020) now have an Ordinance passed in the affirmative that older persons and Person living with Disability are allowed to attend hospitals for medical care without lining up in long ques.
The SIG joint advocacy initiatives have seen some districts (Mubende, Bushenyi, Pallisa, Mukono, Kiboga etc.) approve originally not planned budgets or votes for Older Persons from the Local Revenue of the respective districts (figures are varying between 500,000 UGX to 4 Million per annum), these budgets can now support Older Persons and other SIG members to commemorate their Special International Days locally or even at National Level e.g. International Day for Older Persons, World Disability Days reach out to lower councils to provide awareness etc.
For many of the respective District SIG Advocacy Groups the slogan is “….united we stand divided we fall….” To achieve a better and more sustainable Advocacy impact, Unity is the way to go for all Special Interest groups as individual interest groups not much can be achieved.
Some of the verbatim gathered from representatives of Special Interest Groups
“…personally, the training has opened my eyes to understand the plight of Older Persons….”
As said by a Women representative and Deputy Speaker Ntungamo
“…..I was thinking that Older Person have since surpassed their use but the reality is older persons are a great resource…” As said by a Youth representative Sheema
“…. the work you have done in our district continues to bring all interest group together as a united force of change….” As said by District PwD Councillor from Sheema District
When vulnerable members of our society are united to lobby and advocate for a common good utilizing peaceful means society is assured of its sustainability and safety. For Uganda Reach the Aged Association this is an area that we will continue to pursue as a good practice in pursuit of good governance, transparency and accountability in Uganda.
Compiled by Were Wataga E. Fred