The ‘why’ and ‘how’ to build bridges with national equality bodies
AGE Platform Europe and Equinet – the European Network of Equality Bodies, joined forces on 27-28 June in Berlin on the occasion of a timely capacity-building seminar. As members of the two networks get to know each other, new alliances against ageism are taking shape.
Building on the anti-ageism movement growing in Europe, the seminar took place at a strategic moment for AGE and Equinet members. Hosted in the premises of the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, the seminar was introduced by Karl Moehl, from the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, Barbara Wurster, from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior citizens, Women and Youth, as well as Szabolcs Schmidt, Head of Unit ‘Non-Discrimination and Roma Coordination’ at the European Commission who all warmly welcomed the organisation of this event.
A few months only after the end of the #AgeingEqual campaign, Equinet published a Discussion paper on ‘’Fighting discrimination on the ground of age’’. The paper shares a glimpse of the prevalence of age discrimination in the European Union in the fields of employment, access to goods and services, housing as well as in relation to health and care.
‘’Once in our 50s we may be considered too old to present TV programs to younger audiences, to train as a doctor, to access a student loan and other financial products, to adopt or to access surrogacy, to work in airport security. 55 may be the cut off for access to funding for further education, for some disability insurance products, or premiums may dramatically rise.’’
A conversation on the lived-experiences of ageism
These examples taken from the recent Equinet’s publication were echoed during the seminar with AGE members disclosing situations they had themselves been through by sharing real life experiences of ageism:
“I was a mature student who wanted to do a PhD. So, I looked for grants: I encountered a first barrier at EU level where the age limit is 30 years old!”
Coming from all over Europe, the over 60 participants participants from both networks rapidly mixed and networked, confirming that this conversation needed to happen. Developed to acquaint participants with their respective specificities and fields of expertise, the participatory format of the seminar nicely flowed with AGE and Equinet members actively contributing and responding to the invitations of the event facilitator, Namir Chowdhury from the British Youth Council:
“Age is not a state of mind” recalled participants. “Older people are diverse; just like others. They are part of our society, each with their own experience, capabilities and characteristics.”
After further exploring and understanding what ageism is and implies on the first day, participants worked on the identification of concrete joint actions for the future. The seminar made it clear that cooperation between older persons’ organisations and equality bodies is highly relevant at all levels.
A timely and relevant cooperation is emerging
By sharing testimonies of exclusion and experiences of discriminatory situations, older persons’ organisations have the potential to alert equality bodies who can, in return, take legal action and provide assistance to victims of discrimination. The complementarities of older persons’ organisations and equality bodies were regularly acknowledged as a strength to build on for our respective advocacy and policy activities.
Participants agreed on the importance to push forward joint evidence-based arguments to build a case for a new United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older People. At European level, the two networks will keep collaborating, especially in light of the new European Commission and Parliament taking office. The need to adopt the EU Equal Treatment Directive was repeatedly stated as a crucial and necessary step to ensure full legal protection of age discrimination also beyond the field of employment.
These are some of the key messages from the seminar, a detailed report with the outcomes and concrete recommendations of the seminar will be published shortly.
This capacity building seminar was a clear example of how important it is to build partnerships and strong connections with relevant actors that work for the same cause at both national and European level. Throughout the fruitful discussions and coffee breaks, NGOs and national equality bodies interacted and built relations that will continue after they have returned to their home countries.