17th May 2012, marks the culmination of efforts by APSP, Social Protection Actors Forum (SPAF), the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Development, DFID, UNICEF, World Bank and other Civil Society Organisations efforts to have the government officially adopt the National Social Protection Policy. The process was given the nod by Cabinet on Thursday and proposes to look into the social wellbeing of society’s vulnerable groups. The process will involve instituting cash transfer programmes, work for food, work for cash programmes, a pensions and health retirement scheme for the most vulnerable among a host of other social protection measures.

Noteworthy however is the gapping disconnect between policy makers and the grassroots during implementation in this regard government has proposed to establish a National Social Protection Committee with subsidiaries in all 47 counties within Kenya. The steps are well worth it but the process is only now just beginning with a Sessional Paper due to be tabled for debate on the floor of cabinet. APSP would nonetheless like to commend efforts from all stakeholders in the process and urge them to trudge on with this noble endeavour.

After a workshop that was held at Busiga Resort in Kampala followed by lobbying by the Uganda Platform for Social Protection, the Uganda government now appreciates Social Protection as an essential measure to battle poverty, offer plenty of hope to the vulnerable and elderly in the society and when carried out effectively it contributes to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Although the Uganda government had approved the Expanding Social Protection Program (ESP[r1] ) in June 2010 to embed a national social protection[r2]  including social assistance for the poor and most vulnerable in the society as a core element of their national planning and budgeting processes it wasn’t working.

In this regard the Uganda[r3]  government released shs[r4] .3.8 billion for over 30,000beneficiaries under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE).  The SAGE program was formed in June 2011 to December 2014 to advocate for the plights[r5]  of the elderly and vulnerable in the society. Before the SAGE program,  statistics showed that 1.6 million  elderly persons in Uganda were abandoned, poor, helpless and discriminated because of their age bracket at work place. At that time the Uganda government had no policy to cater for their well being. This led to the formation of the department for the elderly along with the disability under the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to help in the implementation of the SAGE program in the 14 piloted districts. They include Apac, Kaberamaido, Katakwi, kiboga, Nebbi, Kyenjojo, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Kyegegwa, Kyankwanzi, Zombo, Napak and Kole. The program is funded by DFID, Irish Aid and UNICEF.

The SAGE program’s main object is to provide a direct monthly income of shs[r6] .24,000 to 95,000 households in the above mentioned districts. The five year program targets to reach 60,000 people by December 2012 and 600,000 at the end of the program. So far the program has benefitted 31,000 people.

According to the survey, the SAGE program is transforming the lives of elderly and vulnerable in the  context of protection, empowerment, labour market and economic stabilization[r7]       . The survey shows that 415 beneficiaries from 16 sub-counties who were interviewed, 56% have saved[r8]  their grant for investments like stocking of livestock, buying of seeds and hiring of labour. It also shows that people are able to have a decent meal, sending their children to school and local producers are able to meet the demand for local products. The report indicates that 6% of the grant is misused[r9]  on alcohol.

SAGE is essential since it cushions the elderly and vulnerable from the shocks of life and also a key opportunity of achieving millennium development goals  (MDGs)that is goal number one; eradication of poverty. The program should be embraced by other governments since it improves the social welfare of the elderly and vulnerable in the society[r10] .


 [r1]Is this a government programme of Civil Society Programme?

 [r2]To embed a programme or …?

What evidence do we have to suggest that it is because of the lobbying and efforts of the platform that government has instituted Social Protection measures? Does this mean the  government was doing nothing before the Platforms’ efforts?

 [r3]The Ugandan Government

 [r4]Uganda shillings

 [r5]The plight without an “s”

 [r6]Ugandan Shillings sometimes it’s good to give a dollar equivalent. Not always

 [r7]Shorten the sentence

 [r8]Rephrase to not give the impression of excess

 [r9]That is a personal point of view.

 [r10]Give a more powerful ending.

As the Social Protcetion agenda continues to grow, the Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) is looking to build its network and continuously engage more actors from different countries across the African continent. This engagement will allow further penetration into the grassroots and more importantly have a concerted effort that is harmonised by the APSP through its local affiliates. We believe this will enable National Platforms draw from other platforms exchanging best practices and tapping into the resource pool that APSP has at its disposal. In this respect APSP has come up with guidlines that inform the establishment of a National Platform. Do find the particulars here

The APSP family held its annual team building exercise in Mombasa, Kenya from 20th – 23rd July 2012. The change in venue provided staff members with a much needed opportunity to interact in an official ‘unofficial’ capacity. Staff members were able to report on goings-on within the organization with different departments taking lead to outline yearly plans, review them and plan for the future. It was not all work though as staff were entreated to a splash in the ocean as well as a city tour which was welcomed by the age old Islamic tradition of Ramadan.

 

The meeting organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) between 21st 24th October 2012, brought together academicians, politicians and members of civil society to deliberate over what gender specific needs, call for incorporation into the Social Protection agenda. What came out very clearly is the fact that gender issues are not to be discussed in isolation. Vulnerabilities, experiences of poverty and marginalisation bear different meaning to both men and women. Issues peculiar to women have to be looked at through a gender lens which is exactly what presentations focused on. Legal instruments and policy provisions, both municipal and international instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, the SADC Code on Social Security etc. have been adopted by countries across the region but have not had the desired impact with regards to alleviating the status of women, or at least not at the anticipated pace.

Women unfortunately have to contend with customary law provisions which subjugate them in society as well as propagate stereotypical perspectives of gender roles. These contradictions in the law are accentuated by domination/over representation of women in the informal economy as well as in the lower tiers of employment both in the informal and formal economy.

In addition, populations in the SADC region which are predominated by women, have more men working in formal employment. What this means is that because Social Protection programmes such as Social Security are focused on formal employment, many women are left out of these programmes.

Social Protection programmes cannot afford to be gender neutral because this indifferent approach does more to relegate women into situations where they are susceptible to risks and shocks of daily living and thus poverty.

Evidently, across the region there is need to integrate informal workers into more formalised Social Protection programmes.  These can be interlinked with agriculture, cash transfer programmes, education, public works programmes, health programmes etc. Coupled with complimentary services and infrastructure, Social Protection can be a real empowering tool for women in the region.

This approach is encapsulated in the presentation by Prof. Sandra Fredman from Oxford University who in the Keynote Address argued for substantive equality as opposed to formal equality. This demands for structural changes that interrogate gender roles and perceptions in general.

FES, which is looking to publish a more comprehensive report on the meeting also managed to set up an interim Steering Committee for a network of Social Protection practitioners and experts. The Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) which is looking forward to working with FES was glad to see a regional focused approach to Social Protection that accentuated a peculiar concern for the region. Of course, context and Social Protection go hand in hand and this is just one example of what direction Social Protection can take on the continent by enhancing region specific challenges.

One group of persons often overlooked in Social Protection programmes is that of disabled persons. The Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) which is at the forefront of pushing for the protection of vulnerable groups in society is joined by the European Union in its thinking who through their Communication of August 2012, on Social Protection argue that Social Protection is one of the ways of ensuring inclusion in the development agenda. APSP adds on to that thinking by arguing further that this inclusiveness yields sustainability by harnessing different strengths from these different segments of society. Many African countries are only just waking up to the fact that disabled persons are highly excluded from participation in society, with many traditional practices sidelining many disabled persons. The now famous “Disability in not Inability” statement is no longer a mere statement for musing and dismissing, the now famous Olypian from South Africa, Oscar Pistorius who competed in both the Olympics and Paralympics proved just that. Efforts to have more and more disabled persons included in the development agenda of many countries are now underway.

The Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, is a key champion of these efforts. The Executive Director of the Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP), Dr. Tavengwa Nhongo, was invited to Pretoria, South Africa to take part in a meeting to “Develop the Disability Architecture for the African Decade for Disability”. The meeting that run from 28th August to 1st September 2012, brought together fifteen (15) experts from different fields to deliberate over a way forward on this issue. Participants were drawn from the APSP, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Sight Savers, University of Pretoria, Pan-Africa Parliament and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).

Dr. Nhongo teamed up with Mr. Thomas Ongolo to make a presentation on African Union (AU) Policies and Strategies, including how best to effectively engage the Pan-African organisation. This preliminary meeting looked at how to bring on board the AU and member states in addressing a cross thematic framework post the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) specifically addressing challenges faced by disabled persons. In particular, the meeting sought to get started on an engagement strategy post the 2015 deadline of the MDGs that will bring in Disabled Persons into national consultations as well as influence High Level Policy makers. Fundamentally, a range of post-2015 response strategies need to be formulated in preparation for the conclusion of the MDGs.

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