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Rwanda moves to improve social protection for its elderly

By:Jason Muhire

Rwanda has set record with regards to protection and good welfare of its elderly.

On the 13th July 2020, the parliament of Rwanda approved the ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of the elderly in a process that will pave way to the elaboration of a policy and the enactment of new laws to take care of elderly persons, pensioners and their families. The charter was adopted at the 26th Session of the Africa Union Assembly held in Addis-Ababa in January 31, 2016.

MP Elisabeth Mukamana who presides over the committee on unity and the fight against Genocide that was tasked to further discuss articles of the protocol indicated that the subsequent draft policy under finalization at ministry level will improve already existing government efforts to support pensioners.

“For example on financial support, this new policy will not only financially support the pensioners but even their family that takes care of them, which is different from what we have been doing,” she said.

Article 7 of the charter requires signatory parties to develop policies and legislation that ensure that those who retire from their employment are provided with adequate pensions and other forms of social security. Since 2018, Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) reviewed pension payouts upwards, with the least paid currently earning Rwf13000 from Rwf5700 before.

Moreover, article 17 provides for the rights of Older Persons to enjoy all aspects of life, including active participation in cultural programs, leisure and sports. In that regard, “Each one of us in society will have a role to play in supporting the elderly. They (elderly) will also get sporting and fitness activities and life skills training for the elderly as proposed in the new policy,” MP Mukamana said.

In particular circumstances where the elderly have lost their entire families, efforts have been made to ensure that they are taken care of. For example, on the 13th October 2019, Unity Club opened a building that is home to 50 elderly people who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rusizi, Eastern Province.

But for Rwanda, the community based approach is the favored option. “We need to start teaching youths a culture of supporting the elderly. We need to find solutions in our culture of caring for elders,” MP John Ruku Rwabyoma advised the government in the earlier presentation of the protocol. Indeed, article 10 of the charter requires signatory parties to identify, promote and strengthen traditional support systems to enhance the ability of families and communities to care for older family members.

It is worth noting that, on June 23, Rwanda launched Covid-19 testing on the elderly living in high risk areas. For instance, the country dedicated three days to test the elderly in the most affected areas such Rusizi. Indeed, research shows that those over 60 years of age have a greater risk of fatality from Covid19; hence the need for preferential treatment during a pandemic or any other crisis. 

The formulation of Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) has been guided by considerations such as the adoption and scaling up home-grown solutions based on Rwandan culture, values and the country’s unique developmental context and ensuring inclusiveness for all to benefit without leaving anyone behind.

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