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Ageing Africa: Transforming Gender Relations Writing Workshop at Warwick University

We were delighted to welcome Dr Jennifer Lander (De Montfort University Law Faculty); Dr David Otieno Ngira (Mount Kenya University Law Faculty) and Dr Agnes Meroka (University of Nairobi Law School) to Warwick to take part in an intensive writing workshop with Professor Ann Stewart. The Law School is familiar ground for them all. All three have been graduate students. Agnes and Jennifer undertook both their LLMs (International Development Law and Human Rights) and their doctoral studies at Warwick. Jennifer went on to be an early career fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies. David undertook his LLM in International Development Law and Human Rights and obtained his doctorate from Utrecht University.

We call ourselves the ‘Warwick team’ because we have all worked together on different aspects of gender and ageing in Africa research and now we are engaged in a further team effort – producing a monograph which draws on and builds from our collaboration.

We now have two specific objectives:

  1. produce a jointly authored monograph built around our research (see below) but set within wider perspectives to gender and ageing in African contexts, producing new and ground breaking scholarship.
  2. prepare a submission to funders for further research on gender and ageing in Africa’s plural legal systems. We will build on our Nairobi 2019 workshop report (see below) and ongoing discussion with HelpAge International to prepare for wider consultation with academic and international/regional policy makers.

This residential workshop allowed us the uninterrupted time we needed. It was made possible by the generous support of the Warwick University Institute of Advanced Studies which awarded residential visiting fellowships to Agnes, David and Jennifer. This enabled David and Agnes to travel from Nairobi and for all three to stay at the lovely residential facilities made available to fellows. We are also very grateful for the Law School Legal Research Institute funding which covered the rest of our collective expenses.

We worked very hard but it was a huge pleasure to share ideas. We spent the week developing our conceptual framework and preparing detailed plans for each chapter. This involved many hours of intense but very exciting discussions as we reflected on what we had learned from our linked projects. Jennifer and Ann benefited greatly from David and Agnes’ in-depth nuanced understanding of the Kenyan legal systems, in particular the interactions between customary and state law as well as their understanding of the Kenyan social and cultural contexts. Their knowledge deeply enriched the analysis we are developing. Jennifer and Ann added knowledge of life course approaches to gender and ageing and its importance to developing a transformative approach to gender and ageing issues. We explored in depth what we had learned about caring and ageing in Kenya, the regional policy contexts for the development of the rights of older people and the challenges of developing long term care policies. We all admired Jennifer’s ability to capture our thoughts, synthesis them and write them up as we went along.

We also thought about our next funding proposal. We decided our first aim would be to seek funds to enable us to share our newly honed framework (a gendered life course perspective on ageing) with key African regional stakeholders at a high level continent wide policy conference on ageing planned for September 2020. We aim both to contribute to on-going policy making but also to build the support we need to undertake further collaborative research. We subsequently obtained a Warwick ESRC Impact Acceleration Award (£10,000) to further this objective.

It was not all work! We enjoyed many rumbustious conversations shared between us and with friends over home cooked meals and David and Agnes managed to squeeze in some Christmas shopping to take home to their family and friends.

We are a team of researchers who have worked together on research and impact related activities relating to socio -legal approaches to gender and ageing in Kenya and increasingly in other sub Saharan countries (Ethiopia and Malawi). We share a longer history however. Jennifer, David and Agnes are all postgraduate alumni of Warwick Law School and all three were research assistants on Ann’s Leverhulme fellowship project on ‘Caring for older women in Kenya’s plural legal system’ (2016-2017). Jennifer Lander, an Institute of Advanced Studies Early Career Researcher at the time, was based in the UK, Agnes Meroka and David Ngira in Kenya. David and Ann undertook the fieldwork jointly. All provided papers for the dissemination workshop (Nairobi Sept 2017). Jennifer and Ann were then commissioned by HelpAge International (HAI) (leading international NGO on ageing) to produce a policy brief (Transforming Gender Relations in an Ageing World 2018). This collaboration (Leverhulme and policy brief projects) resulted in a Warwick GCRF accelerator project (£34,500 2019) to build capacity/collaborative policy support for an externally funded project on Gender and Ageing in African contexts via preparation of briefing documents and an African regional workshop (Nairobi June 2019). Agnes and Dr Mishra (HAI) were co applicants for the project. David provided research support. Agnes, David and Ann were lead authors on briefing documents for the workshop (Gender and Ageing in African Contexts Policy, Legal and Institutional Development Regional Workshop Report, June 2019). Based partly on this and involving Warwick, HAI plan an Africa wide conference on ageing in September 2020.