I live in Habu village in Rangpur, northern Bangladesh. with my wife and one son, who has autism. I am a farmer, but now I am not able to do all the work myself, hire an assistant. I also get a small allowance from the government.
How did you get involved in campaigning for older people's rights?
One incident made me particularly angry. There was a food distribution as part of relief activities in my area. There was a queue, but a few older people could not wait for a long time and sat nearby. They were ignored and went home without any food. I was sad on that day. I decided then to work for the rights of older people.
I was invited to an International Day of Older Persons event in 2013, organised by HelpAge International. I attended the event and came to know about population ageing and older people's rights. After the event, I an older people's association and got involved in campaigning for older people's rights. I realised that if older people join and campaign for their own rights, then the policy-makers do listen.
Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?
It happened to me in 2009. I was the chairperson of a committee of a political party, but in the reformation they excluded me because of my age. I was shocked to hear that they preferred younger people. I said when you grow old, your knowledge and wisdom increases, but they did not listen or even acknowledge my contributions.
Many older people face discrimination because of their age. One of the older people in our area could not get a political party nomination due to his old age. Older people are usually not included in the local government action plans and have often been neglected in relief activities.
Tell me about your proudest moments as a campaigner
In late 2015, HelpAge organised a policy dialogue in which we urged civil servants to make the old age allowance distrubution process easier. The problem is that people have to collect their pensions from banks located in big towns. So on pension days, people have to travel a long way and then queue for hours outside without shelter.
On behalf of our older people's association, we convinced the bank authorities to arrange different dates and times for people from different villages to collect their pensions, and to provide water and seating for them at the bank. Now in 2018, the Government has introduced a digital process in four districts, and I heard 10 more districts will be covered soon. It makes me proud that the Government listens to us, and that all older people will benefit from our initiatives.
What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it?
We campaign on the selection of eligible older people for the old age allowance, on transparency in the distribution, on including older people in the standing committee of the Union Parishad [local authority], on accessible health services, and on ensuring older people, particularly women, can participate in society and development activities.
We are doing our work through organising pressure groups, networking, lobbing, advocacy and media publicity. Almost every year we meet Government representative at the national level through a policy dialogue, with assistance from HelpAge.
What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person?
From 2013 until now, Age Demands Action campaigning has helped me enormously. I am in touch with other older leaders throughout the district and across the nation, and I can help older people in need and support them to realise their rights. I might be just an older farmer, but this also proves that we elders are not helpless! I feel proud at the work we have done to help older people.
How are things improving for older people in your country?
Campaigns have been taking place in different places across the country. As a result, the President of Bangladesh has declared older people as "senior citizens". Here in our sub-district hospital there are two permanent beds reserved for older people, and older people are provided with free health services.
Do you have a message for other older people around the world?
May all older people unite to reduce all discrimination and promote rights.
With thanks to HelpAge office in Bangladesh
Read more stories from older campaigners.
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