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Advocacy efforts at the UN on behalf of older persons have been going on for a long time. Currently, there is a General Assembly Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing whose purpose is to explore ways to strengthen the protection of the human rights of older persons. The Working Group, “is mandated to consider the existing international rights framework for older ersons, to identify possible gaps and how best to address them.” (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs). Civil Society is advocating for the adoption of a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.The Working Group held its third working session in August and Loretto had a knowledgeable and vocal representative participating in the meetings: Rosario Soto (pictured with Sally Dunne), a social worker from
Cochabamba who works with an organization called VOSERDEM: Voluntarios al Servicio de los Demas – (Volunteers in Service to Others). Rosario and VOSERDEM became known to Loretto in 2003 when Vicki Quatmann requested financial support from Loretto’s Hunger Fund for Rosario’s program providing food to a group of grandmothers who were raising their grandchildren who had been abandoned by their parents.
According to notes Cecily Jones provided from the files of the Hunger Fund, the program cost $10 each Saturday, and Vicki asked the Hunger Fund to cover the cost for one year. Vicki described the group of ten grandmothers as “women who are dirt poor, have no other sources of income other than the hard work they do each day, washing clothes or other difficult work.” Each Saturday, each received perhaps a bag of noodles, or a bottle of cooking oil, or a bag of sugar or of rice. Vicki then went on to describe Rosario and her work: “These grandmothers come every Saturday to the Church of the Jesuits in the center of Cochabamba at 9:30 where they meet with Rosario Soto, a young university student who is a member of VOSERDEM. … Fact is, Rosario does more than buy and distribute the food for the grandmothers. When she began this work three years ago, she gave them her phone number. Often, middle of the week, she receives a call from one of them needing other kinds of help. I have done what I can to be a support to her personally. She impresses me with her commitment as do many in VOSERDEM.”
Rosario came to New York to visit a friend, and Loretto at the UN helped her get her visa by registering her for this 4-day UN meeting focused on ageing. Her friend and I thought she would come to one session, see the UN and be done with it. But no, Rosario came every day, listened intently to the discussions and speeches, and actively participated in the NGO deliberations. She also contributed three oral interventions, on the following themes:
• Autonomy, Independent Living and Healthcare
• Life in Dignity, Social Security and Access To Resources
• Abuse and Violence
Loretto is grateful to Rosario for representing us during this important UN meeting!