MRDF’s partner CDVTA (Community Development Volunteers for Technical Assistance) runs an innovative project to support and empower elderly people in remote areas of North West Cameroon. They have created a network of old people’s clubs and supported the development of income-generating activities.
In December last year, CDVTA organised a convention, the third of its kind, in the regional capital Bamenda. Attended by 25,000 people from old people’s clubs and community leaders from across the region as well as political and traditional leaders, the convention aimed to champion the rights of older people, present a positive image of old age, and call for the Government of Cameroon to provide better provision for the elderly. Many of the participants travelled for many hours on foot to be there.
In a keynote speech, Director of CDVTA, Francis Njuakom Nchii, spoke of his sadness seeing elderly people suffering from mistreatment, isolation, poor healthcare or being left to care for their grandchildren in old age when their children had died from HIV/AIDS: 'In my close to 17 years of committed action in support of older people in Cameroon’s most remote villages, I have often seen with sorrow the human face of poverty; signs of rejection, signs of ostracism, frailness and signs of poor health on the faces of many elderly people.'
He described the vital importance of elderly people to society, observing: ‘Older people are indeed a canopy of wisdom; they are the true custodians of our culture.’
He called on the country to do more to protect elderly people, in particular calling on the Government of Cameroon to put stronger policies in place to give elderly people access to subsidised healthcare, a greater role in national and local democracy, state pensions and government support in income generation.
Finally, he outlined CDVTA’s work supporting older people to increase their incomes and become more aware of their rights and thanked MRDF for their support and ‘the care, love and compassion that they have shown and continue to show to CDVTA and its elderly people in Cameroon.’
The Governor of North West Cameroon also gave a speech saying ‘I commend CDVTA’s support for older people in Cameroon. Today CDVTA has become an example to the international community. CDVTA shows us that social mobilisation for the elderly is possible and that it is possible to improve elderly livelihoods and more importantly that elderly people can work together to exercise their rights.’
After the formal programme for the day ended there was time for some light-hearted fun as the delegates took part in an eclectic range of competitions including dancing, fashion shows, a tug of war, a laughing contest and spaghetti eating competition.
The convention succeeded in raising awareness of the rights of older people in Cameroon and CDVTA will continue to lobby Cameroon’s Government to provide a range of services to vulnerable elderly people including government healthcare and state pensions.
View images from CDVTA's work