Evelyn Makena @evemake_g
John Kioko watches his grandchildren walk into a modest corrugated sheets house in Kibarage informal settlements, Nairobi. He slices a piece of cake that has been lying on his table and shares it among his three grandchildren.
At 82, he could easily be mistaken to be much younger. His gait is sturdy and he is still evidently energetic as he busies himself with settling his grandchildren at home after school.
He displays numerous cakes he has baked for sale as he stands next to a new gas cooker, beaming with pride. While he may have retired from his profession as a baker, which he pursued for over 30 years, Kioko has continued baking at his old age as a way of earning an income to support his family. “I live with my daughter and three grandchildren who all look up to me,” he says.
Kioko has bought the gas cooker to bake his cakes after enrolling for a merry-go-round with his peers in Kibarage. Kioko joined in 2013 and he is able to make a contribution of Sh100 per month to the merry-go-round. He is one among several other elderly people that are beneficiaries of the government cash transfer targeting Kenyans over 65 years that has been in effect since 2011.
The programme, that initially targeted few Kenyans in that age bracket based on poverty index, become universal this month for all Kenyans above 70 years. Every beneficiary will receive Sh2,000 per month. The government is set to launch the programme that will cost Sh6.5 billion for a start as a way of boosting the welfare of the elderly people in the population.
Mary Wanjiru Waweru was displaced from her home in Londiani, Rift Valley during the 2007/2008 post-election violence and she takes care of five orphaned grandchildren. Even without an income, the task of feeding, clothing and educating her grandchildren squarely fell on her. With the help of well-wishers, Mary has managed to take her grandchildren to school leaving her with only the task of providing food for them.
“I had been living with a well-wisher in Kiambu before I decided to come to settle in Kibarage slums in 2011 to look for work,” she says. The 72-year-old resorted to casual jobs to earn a living and support her family.
Getting enrolled into the cash transfer programme in 2014 enables her meet some of her needs. “With the Sh4,000 I receive after two months, I pay my monthly rent of Sh1,500 and use the money I earn from other jobs to buy food,” she says.
Mary has also started a small beads business to augment her income. “I make baskets and mats and then sell them in the neighbourhood,” she says. Mary and John represent the realities older people in the society have to grapple with. Most of them are abandoned and neglected and are left to fend for themselves.
“Several others are taking care of grandchildren with little or no income,” says George Ndung’u Kamau of Technical Lead, Social Protection HelpAge International. According to George, the universal pension scheme will help improve the dignity, health and nutrition of older persons.
HelpAge, an international NGO that looks after the welfare of the elderly, is one of the organisations that have been advocating for Universal Pension. Equipping the elderly to meet some of their basic needs such as food and clothing will boost the dignity of this demographic in the population.
“From an African perspective people are looked down upon if they cannot do certain things for themselves. The money helps the elderly walk with heads high knowing that they can meet some of their needs,” adds George.