Social security and older people in Swaziland.
Mabundza-Dlamini, Lungile Patience Nakiwe Bonsile.
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This study explored the lived experiences of older people in Swaziland who are recipients of the Old Age Grant in Swaziland (OAG). It sought to understand their views on being old in an environment where there is insufficient social security coverage and disintegration of the extended family structure. The study sought to examine older people’s ways of life on a daily basis, the levels of independence and ability to care for themselves as well as other forms of care, in which they are involved in based on the Active Ageing Framework, the Notion of Care and Human Rights Based Approach. The Policy Implementation Theory was used to understand the context, content, nature of the policy process, actors involved in the formulation process and how all these components influence the implementation of OAG in Swaziland. This theory therefore, showed the dynamics of implementation and how each component is important in the effective policy implementation of the grant. The study utilized indepth interviews and focus group discussions in order to strengthen the methodological vigor of the study. A qualitative research methodology was used in order to gain a rich and detailed account of the social security experiences of older people. Purposive sampling was used to select participants for the study who were recipients of OAG and who live in different geographical regions of Swaziland (Hhohho, Manzini, Lubombo and Shiselweni). Qualitative methods included in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with older people and a questionnaire was used with government officials and implementing partners (local and non-government organization representatives) involved in social protection and ageing issues. In total, there were 172 participants for the study, including sixty-one in-depth interviews and one hundred focus group participants. Eleven questionnaires were distributed to five government officials and six representatives of local and international NGOs working in social security issues or as implementing partners for the government of Swaziland. Further, there were some differences in terms of overall needs, educational levels, previous employment, perceptions and overall understanding of the issues, which they face based geographic on location (whether urban, peri-urban or rural). The overall perception of participants in the study was that government and non-governmental organizations have been slow in responding to the urgent needs of the ageing population in Swaziland. The study further revealed that there is lack of understanding of the experiences of the ageing population in Swaziland, and that their needs are not known or inadequately addressed because there is no platform to discuss the issues of older people in the country. Overall, the older people perceived social security as a right which government must award to them since they are citizens of the country. From the participants’ responses, it was clear that HIV/AIDS had caused significant strain for older people as they had assumed caregiving duties in old age. All these experiences were well captured under the Notion of Care, Human Rights Based Approach and Active Ageing Framework. Regardless of all their caring responsibilities, older people desire to live in an environment free of ageism, abuse and social exclusion. At a policy level, the study revealed numerous implementing challenges of the OAG and that Swaziland needs a programme that is more responsive to the daily needs of older people. HIV/AIDS is a significant factor in the lives of older people and as such need to be weaved into programmes targeting this population. The study further revealed the importance of designing programmes that take into account Swaziland’s specific socio-political and cultural heritage. From the study, it emerged that in Swaziland formal and indigenous social systems co-exist and both play an equally important role in an environment where the majority of the ageing population is not protected or supported by formal social security. Indigenous social security mechanisms cover the gaps created by lack of adequate coverage from state provided social security. Community-based and neighbourhood welfare practices have somewhat assisted older people in maintaining their social networks which are built on reciprocity and Ubuntu in meeting some of their needs. Conclusions and inferences from this study suggest that the current State social security systems (SSS) have not adequately responded to the day-to-day needs of older people. Older people in the study were more heterogeneous than homogenous therefore, makers need to factor in these differences during policy formulation and implementation. The study proposed a more inclusive, collaborative and bottom-up approach to implementing programmes targeting older people. Improvement on the current safety net could be realised if the input of the recipients is solicited. The study further proposed strengthening of indigenous social security systems (ISSS) to supplement State based social security in an effort to improve the livelihood of older people in Swaziland. Lastly, a one-stop comprehensive model in the delivery of the old age grant was proposed in order to improve the quality of services and to encourage cooperation between the different agencies working with older people in Swaziland.