Recently, a video featuring a group of grandmothers was shared widely on social media. The video featured a group of grandmothers in Korogocho slum in Nairobi who were learning to defend themselves from predators by acquiring Karate and other self-defense techniques. The video should have been amusing because seeing a group of elderly women kicking and punching is quite unusual. However, it was quite saddening because they were out learning these self-defense skills out of necessity instead of spending their sunset years on rocking chairs surrounded by their grandchildren.
Evidence shows that abuse of the older persons has been on the rise in Kenya with the most common form of abuse being physical. Notably, areas with the highest prevalence of such cases are Kilifi, Kisii and Kirinyaga. Stories of older people being declared witches and being burnt to death have dominated the public domain from time to time.
The elderly usually find themselves disenfranchised and abused at societal cultural levels and in socio-economic and political activities. They are often victims of theft and are sometimes forcefully stripped of their belongings, e.g. cattle, land, previous investments like houses and movable assets. For these reasons, the Government of Kenya is committed to supporting welfare activities for older persons as a matter of urgency and priority.
First, the Government’s commitment towards addressing the well being of older persons of the society is outlined in the Kenya National Policy on Ageing. The overall objective of this policy is to facilitate integration and mainstream the needs and concerns of the older persons in the national development process. The vision of the policy is to create an environment in which the elderly are recognized, respected and empowered to actively and fully participate in society and development. The policy has been tabled before the Cabinet for approval.
Second, the Government through the Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection (MEACL&SP) is in the process of developing an Older Persons Bill that will address all forms of abuse to older persons. In particular, the bill will spell out specific legal measures that will be undertaken against anybody who abuses an older person(s).
Third, the Government launched the Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme (OPCT) in 2005 with an aim to cushion older persons and their households from risks such as sickness, poor health and injuries, and to provide younger household members an opportunity to go to school or to be gainfully employed. The programme serves persons who are 65 years old and above and who are considered to be extremely poor.
From a modest 270,000 in 1949, the population of older persons stood at 1.9 million in the last national census in 2009. It is projected that by 2030 this number will have increased to 3 million (persons 60 years and above). It is also estimated that there will be more people aged 60 years and above than children under 10 years by the year 2030. (If you will be in this age bracket at the time, then this information should be of even more importance to you.)
When it comes to funding, initially, the Government allotted Kshs 4 million when it first launched the programme in 2005/2006. The programme was awarded over 7 billion shillings for the current financial year 2016/2017. Approximately 323,861 households across the country are benefitting from this cash transfers programme.
One of the biggest wins when it comes to the protection of older persons is that there is funding for the provision of healthcare for those already enrolled in the programme. About 245,853 older persons currently benefitting from the programme have NHIF cover, fully funded by the Government. This means that older persons no longer need to spend their already scarce resources on health related issues.
Although the expansion of the Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT) is measured, it still places Kenya at the forefront in the region in providing social protection for its senior citizens. Moreover, the increased budget allocation on social protection interventions has come as part of additional investment in cash transfers for orphans and vulnerable children (CT-OVC) and persons with disabilities (CT-PWSD), which puts Kenya closer to achieving the minimum package of social protection as defined by the African Union Social Policy Framework of 2009.
Despite the fact that these programmes are expanding in coverage, a number of design and implementation issues have begun to dominate the policy debate, including; participation levels of stakeholders in the social protection sector, the economic viability, targeting, exit/graduation mechanisms, and measurability of the impact of the programmes. These are the key pertinent issues that the project, Research-policy Community (Utafiti Sera) on social protection in Kenya, is focusing on.
The Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) has developed Utafiti Sera as part of its research-policy engagement process. Utafiti Sera strengthens, builds and enhances a community of researchers, implementers and policy actors working together to ensure that appropriate and negotiated policy actions and uptake occur. These can be through programmes, legislations, policies or administrative and other forms of civic actions around issues for which research has provided evidence or for which a synthesis of available evidence has been made, in this case, social protection in Kenya.
Utafiti Sera is a combination of many things that ensure and enhance policy outcomes. In Kenya, Utafiti Sera is a “process”, “space”, “platform”, “forum” and a “vehicle” for transforming evidence-based knowledge for policy uptake. As a “process”, the project involves sequences of activities that enable the building of a community of practice from where existing and new ideas and evidence flow from community members resulting in collective action to improve social protection policies and programmes.
As a “place”, the scheme provides a platform for key stakeholders with interest, power, capacity and motivation to act in diverse ways to ensure research evidence is available and is used to make informed policy decisions and practices. As a “forum”, the initiative provides a platform for knowledge engagement by different members of the community and as a “vehicle”, the initiative constitutes transmission channels for shared knowledge and experiences to influence policy uptake.
The main goal of Utafiti Sera is to build and sustain a vibrant community of researchers, policy makers and practitioners who can advocate for evidence-based policy uptake. In order to achieve this goal, the initiative is pursuing the following specific objectives:
1. Sustain a vibrant research-policy community on social protection in Kenya through well planned programme activities;
2. Generate new research evidence and synthesize existing relevant research evidence on social protection and make it available to policy makers and practitioners through various forms of communication; and
3. Engage key policy makers and practitioners through direct contact, policy advocacy and use of issue champions during meetings, policy debates and workshops.
Lastly, the overarching outcome of Utafiti Sera is uptake of research evidence defined as influencing design of new national and sub-national policies, setting agenda for national and sub-national debates, and changing programme design and implementation.