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Steps towards a Bigger Pension

By Pilar Contreras, HelpAge International

June 2009




In November 2007, the Bolivian government passed a law replacing the Bonosol, an annual allowance worth US$220 for everyone over 65 years, with the Renta Dignidad, a monthly payment of US$25 (US$300 a year) for everyone over 60. How did this come about? 

The law that had brought in the Bonosol stated that it would end in December 2007. Older people were very concerned that the government was proposing to replace the Bonosol with an annual payment of just US$37. 

Older people’s organisations, led by the national association of older people, ANAMBO, held discussions with politicians – but they soon realised they needed to do more. ANAMBO approached HelpAge International’s partner, Horizontes Foundation, for support. Over the course of three months, Horizontes arranged training for 3,000 older people’s leaders in negotiation, lobbying and conflict resolution. 

The second stage of negotiation started with stronger arguments to support older people’s case for an improved pension. At discussions with government officials at different levels, their leaders referred to their rights as set out in international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

They also pointed out that older people had contributed much to the country, for example, by building schools and roads in their communities, and fighting for the return of democracy in the 1970s. They presented statistics showing the reality of life for Bolivia’s 676,000 older people, with more than half living on less than a dollar a day, and many facing discrimination due to illiteracy or ethnic origin. 

Despite intense negotiations, the government made no commitment. So the leaders organised a rally in the capital, La Paz, in November 2007. More than 15,000 older people took part in an eight-kilometre march around the city, converging on the main square in front of the governmental palace. Their leaders presented a petition to President Evo Morales signed by 50 older people’s representatives from all parts of the country. 

Less than a month later, the government passed the law announcing the Renta Dignidad, ending a year of work between civil society and the government.

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