The National Housing and Population report of 2014 provided for an increase in the populations of older persons to 1,430,000 from 1,101,103 in 2002. Also, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics projects numbers of an older person at 1,600,000 this year. Despite this, the cabinet has passed a resolution to have five members of Parliament represent elderly persons in Parliament.
In 2009, the government formulated and adopted the National policy for older persons. This was to guide policy and programming interventions aimed at improving the quality of life of old persons. The Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social development since 2010 has been implementing the Senior Citizens Grant (SCG) targeting older persons with support from development partners. This unconditional cash transfer aims to reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty and providing income security to older persons. The SCG and the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment program, through the pilot scheme in 2015, had a positive impact on food security, nutrition, education, wage, and employment opportunities.
Article 32 of the Constitution of Uganda provides that the state will take affirmative action in favor of marginalized groups based on gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom to redress imbalances which exist against them. The National Council for Older Persons Act was passed into law in 2013 to in support of the affirmative action for the elderly
Considering the gradual roll-out of the Senior Citizen Grant scheme by the ministry, five parliamentary seats for the elderly is a positive step towards affirmative action in Uganda.
However, this raises the question as to whether this will effectively ensure service delivery for older persons. Similarly, are five representatives enough to ensure the interests of older persons are realized and also are all marginalized groups represented in Parliament? Because other marginalized groups are represented in Parliament, has this improved service delivery to them or not?
In my opinion, there is still a lot to be done to ensure marginalized groups like older persons, youth, and women enjoy access to service in Uganda and it falls upon all parties concerned for this to happen, not just the representatives.
Gad Arthur Kisaalu