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76 years old Purnakala Khatri from Baglung- Harichaur 3 participating in ‘Letter writing competition’ organized on Thursday. She was able to fill one whole page with the introduction of herself, her family and her locality. Most of the participants among the total 50 wrote about Galkot of Baisi-Chaubisi Rajya and their family.  Khatri was able to read and write through a literacy campaign conducted by District Education Office. There were 434 adults participating in the campaign.

Source: Kantipur Daily, (March 7th, 2014)

KATHMANDU: Senior citizens residing at the government-run old-age home near the Pashupatinath Temple are facing difficulties due to a shortage of caregivers.
A total of 230 senior citizens — 125 females and 105 males — are living there. Thirty-two of them are differently-abled.
Mohan Kumar Basnet, chief of the old-age home, which is under the Social Welfare Council, says, “The centre does not have enough caregivers for the elders. Volunteers providing help are having a hard time because they are spread too thin.”

“We have not written to the ministry, but have made verbal requests to it to provide caregivers,” he says referring to the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
Though the center is supposed to have 21 government employees to look after senior citizens, it currently has 15 government staff — three office staff, a nurse, five kitchen staff, three kitchen helpers, two sweepers and a health assistant from the Kathmandu district public health office. Ace Travels has provided five sanitation workers to the old-age facility.

“We have not received any written application from the old-age home demanding staffers, though they have made verbal requests for the same. We have entertained the request and will provide caregivers by the next fiscal if the ministry approves it,” an official says.
For appointment of staffers at the old-age facility, the SWC has to submit an application to the social welfare ministry requesting it to conduct a survey.

After receiving the application, the Ministry of Finance and the social welfare ministry conduct the survey and forward its findings to the Ministry of General Administration, which in turn appoints the staffers. The finance ministry releases the budget after that.
This year, the government has provided Rs 115 million to the center. A staffer at the facility says the government-allocated annual budget is enough to purchase daily commodities and pay salary to staffers. The facility faces cash crunch during medical emergencies, the staffer says.

“We do not go for donation campaigns and do not accept cash donations. Money put in donation boxes is used to foot the medical bill. Whenever elders are admitted to hospitals, we ask hospital authorities for support.”

Source: The Himalayan Times, (January 9th, 2014)

Compiled by: Janu Rai

Since March last year, around 30 senior citizens have been staging a sit-in protest on the premises of the Department of Transport Management (DoTM), first at Koteshwor and now at defunct trolley bus station in Minbhawan in the Capital, demanding a blanket 50 percent discount for the elderly in public transport. The government, however, has been callous in its response. The Senior Citizens Act 2006 stipulates that every public vehicle reserve two seats for people over the age of 60 and grant them 50 percent concession in fare. Accordingly in April 2011, the Supreme Court issued a mandate to the government to ensure the implementation of the Act. Unfortunately, the provision has been interpreted differently by different readers. The members of the Struggle Committee and managers at Sajha Yatayat believe that two seats should be reserved for the elderly while giving fare discount to all above the age of 60. The government and the rest of the transport committees, on the other hand, believe that both seat reservation and fare discount apply to only two senior citizens. In its working procedure, drafted after the start of the sitin protest, to ensure fare discount for the elderly, the government keeps to its interpretation. “This misinterpretation of the provision has only created a divide among the elderly. When five elderly walk inside a bus and only two are allowed a fare discount, who is to say who pays in full and who pays in half. This is not respect, this is discrimination,” says 65-year-old Maha Prasad Parajuli, chair of the Struggle Committee. The government, however, is unwilling to budge. “We’ve already given 50 percent discount to two senior citizens travelling on a public vehicle. We don’t own public transport to grant concessions to all above the age of 60,” said Mukti Bahadur KC, a director at DoTM. The Struggle Committee vows to continue the sit-in until its demands are met. Their other demands include free medical treatment for the elderly and an increment in the oldage allowance from Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 a month.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, (January 6th, 2014)
Compiled by: Janu Rai

72 years old Belamati Pun from Majhakada, Salyan.

72 years old Belamati Pun from Majhakada, Salyan.
Photo: Biplav Maharjan/ Kantipur.

 

Salyan-  An elderly from Majhakada named Belkumari Pun – 72 has come to Kathmandu to work in a brick factory. She chose to work in a brick factory because she couldn’t sustain her daily life due to her poor economic condition, she said.

She was off to Kathmandu on Monday with her relative after she didn’t even have a place to stay. After her husband’s death, she had been living off of sold property until her everything was sold and was compelled to live with her daughter for a few years.

She felt uncomfortable to live with her daughter and she had to choose to work as a labor in a Brick factory and take care of her disabled son. “I was at Ruru, India last year and managed to earn Rs. 14000 from work”, she said. “I have already been to many places to work as a labor before that.”

She says she had to work at this age since there is no one to earn in her family. With her wrinkled face, sunken eyes and fallen teeth, she said, “I can still work with others. I cannot be dependent to my married daughter. How hard could working in a brick factory be when I have already been to Ruru to work?”

Source- Kantipur daily,  (December 26th – 2013)

 Proof of citizenship has become key; yet, vulnerable groups are struggling to get their citizenship cards

Political talk in Nepal is ubiquitous at the moment. Whether at home or in tea shops, whether the interlocutors are young or old, no conversation is completed without discussing which party will win the election and what will happen next. Many anticipate that the first priority will be the constitution.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time in an old age home a few minutes from where I live, talking to its founder and the elderly women who reside there. Already thrilled to be talking to the few grandmothers who were vocal and expressive with their views about the elections and the constitution, my interest escalated when the conversation shifted towards the citizenship issue, old age allowance and its links to the constitution. These women hoped that the to-be-written constitution will have clear provisions for elderly people and that the old age allowance will be given to any elderly person without age bias or other similar limitations.

Rs 500 a month

The sad reality is that out of the eight elderly women, only two have been receiving allowances, while the rest expressed their disappointment in not receiving anything despite being eligible. One main reason was that they did not have citizenship. It then occurred to me that they would not have been able to vote. I was previously unaware of this situation.

Here is a little background about the role of citizenship and old age allowance. The universal old age allowance in Nepal is defined as such: applicable to Dalits who are of 60 years and above, and 70 years and above for other social groups. Every eligible elderly citizen is entitled to Rs 500 per month. To be eligible, each person must undergo a registration process, which requires the citizenship card as proof of identity. Without citizenship, one cannot start the process. In fact, one cannot start any process, not even for a voter card.

When I inquired whether anything had been done to begin the process for these elderly women to acquire their citizenship, the lady who runs the home replied that despite trying many times, making frequent trips to respective places and even visiting the close relatives of these elderly, it was all in vain. “One elderly who lives here has been abandoned by her family members. She is old enough to acquire benefits. I made many trips to her place to talk about the citizenship issue and see if they could help with the process, but I failed,” she said.

Deprived of benefits

The other elderly women were brought in directly from the streets or rescued from difficult situations and given shelter at the home. Such scenarios, where it is no one’s fault that they don’t possess citizenship, leave these elderly people deprived of the benefits and rights they are entitled to. I also found out that a few elderly women had died without getting a chance to enjoy the benefits provided by the state, something they lamented till their very last breath. Moreover, they expressed bitterness and helplessness that despite efforts, officials could not modify the laws regarding citizenship requirements.

This brings us to loopholes within the social protection mechanism that the state has for the ageing population and it reminds us of how obscure this mechanism is. Despite previous research highlighting how elderly men and women have to walk for hours in order to obtain the allowance or how they have to face untimely distributions of allowances, I feel the issue of citizenship is a more serious and contentious one. To be recognised as a senior citizen, there is no way around getting a citizenship card. There are senior citizens who have gone on for years without ever having to show any proof of their citizenship. However, times have changed and identification has become key to all rights, and yet, the most vulnerable groups have been left out.

Categorization helps

If identification is as crucial as it seems to be, why are these elderly people not able to receive it and what can be done to help them? The question in the policy debate points again to whether the elderly people need to be categorized based on their individual situations. For example, as those living with family members, who are supported in every step of their lives; those living alone without the support of family members; those abandoned and living on the streets or in old age homes; and those living with disabilities. Furthermore, such categories can help identify the most vulnerable people so that support can be provided. Moreover, it is also important to understand the role of citizenship in the lives of these elders. That these elderly women were not able to vote in the election as they did not have citizenship is a huge concern, as they are certainly entitled to the right to vote.

For elderly people living in old age homes, the people running the home are like their family. Hence, instead of having to locate a family member or a place where they originally came from as criteria to obtain citizenship, I believe that the state should be able to provide them with citizenship under the name of their foster caretaker. Such a provision can be abused if not handled well, due to duplication and other forms of fraud, but an alternative solution to the one where a family member has to be located needs to exist. If not, with the increasing ageing population, a majority will suffer and be deprived of their rights to social security benefits.

One elderly woman from the home who receives the allowance stated, “I want the constitution to be written and I wish that my friends who are not getting the allowance will get it under the new government.” The voice of senior citizens calls for the writing of the constitution and their hopes are pinned on a new and committed government. The debate between owning a citizenship card as proof of identity as opposed to calling oneself a citizen of a certain country without having a form of evidence is food for thought.

With Nepal’s ageing population on the rise, elderly people form a crucial segment of our communities. Now is a golden opportunity for elected politicians to prove that they have given thought to these sensitive issues and demonstrate that they can solve this problem.

KC is a researcher for Livelihoods, Basic Services and Social Protection at the Nepal Centre for Contemporary

 Research: SONY KC

Source: The Kathmandu Post, (November 22, 2013)

 

“Excuse me, is that yours?” An elderly voice struck my ears when I was waiting for a coach to return to London from Ramsgate, a coastal town. I turned towards the voice and saw an old woman, probably in her late 70s. She was pointing to a soft drink can next to me. It wasn’t mine. I hadn’t even noticed it in my anxiety that I might miss the bus. So I said no. She then picked up the can and walked away slowly. I was puzzled why she was taking that empty can. I saw her white head and tiny structure moving slowly towards the waste bin around the corner. She dropped the can in the bin and went on her way. Wow! I was amazed to see an elderly lady doing this. What an inspiring thing for everybody! I looked at myself and felt ashamed. It was a really hard punch for me who was just sitting on the bench comfortably without bothering about it. It was a great slap for the one who had left it there. The old lady who is not strong enough to carry away her own trash is here taking care of other people’s garbage. And a young person like me is loitering around doing nothing about it. Is it love for her place? Is it her awareness of clean surroundings? Maybe both. This grandmotherly lady’s act is really an inspiration for me who comes from a country where we throw our garbage out the window without any feeling of guilt.

We boastfully spit in public places without any shame. We throw our trash through bus windows. Keeping our own house clean is everything for us. We bathe, put on clean dresses and clean our house daily, but very comfortably we throw our garbage anywhere. In contrast to our behavior, people from the developed countries not only think of their houses but also of their surroundings. They are ashamed to throw even chocolate wrappings or sandwich boxes on the road. They feel uncivilized to spit in public places. That’s why their country is clean. But in our country, how many of us throw our waste in the proper places? If we want a clean environment, who will come and clean it for us if we don’t do it ourselves? If we think that our government or some organization will do it for us, it’s just a sweet dream. Waiting for this sweet dream to come true, we have already spent decades amid stinking surroundings and piles of garbage in the centers of our cities. Photographers have earned a lot of money taking pictures of the rubbish and selling them to the media. Let’s stop giving them such opportunities. Let’s start removing our waste ourselves. If an old lady can do it, why can’t we?

Source: The Kathmandu Post (November 22, 2013)
Compiled by: Janu Rai

 

Kathmandu, October 10

World Mental Health Day was celebrated with the slogan ‘Mental health and senior citizens’ across the country today.
On the occasion, Nepal Mental Health Network organised awareness campaigns, rallies and free health camp. GopalDhakal, General Secretary of Nepal Psychologist Association said, “We focused on senior citizens this year.”

He further said, “A health camp was conducted for senior citizens at Pashupati Old Age Home. Most of them were found suffering from memory disorders and depression. Their self-esteem was very low. They were counselled and provided psychotherapy.”

A free health camp was also organised in Pashupati area and Kirtipur. Eighty persons benefited from the free health camp in pashupati and forty in Kritipur. Most of them were long term anxiety and depression patients. He further said, “There hasn’t been much progress in the field of psychiatric medication in Nepal. The policies developed are not implemented yet.”

Mental problem is a big challenge worldwide. According to World Health Organization, 450 million people are suffering from mental disorders. In Nepal, more than 5 million people are suffering from some or the other mental condition and out of five mental condition, only one has access to treatment.

Source: The Himalayan Times (11th October, 2013)
Compiled by: Suman Thapa

Last week a report on the ageing people ranked Nepal 77th among 91 countries, indicating it as one of the worst places to grow old.

The Global Age Watch Index, the first of its kind, which claimed to have covered 89 percent of the population above 60 years of age worldwide, showed that Nepal is yet to improve its services in health care in order to create a suitable environment for old people.

The survey, conducted by HelpAge International, an INGO, and supported by the United Nations Population Fund, puts Sweden as the best place for ageing people followed by Norway, Germany, Netherlands and Canada. The United States of America got eighth position while India holds 73rd rank.

Afghanistan, the survey shows, is the worst place for older people. The survey looked into 13 indicators in the four domains: income security, health status, employment and education, and enabling environment. Among the indicators, pension income coverage, poverty rate in old age, relative welfare of older people and GDP per capita are looked into income security while life expectancy at 60, healthy life expectancy at 60 and psychological wellbeing are under health status. Similarly, employment of older people and their education status are looked into while social connections, physical safety, civic freedom and access to public transport were kept in mind under the enabling environment.

We can break down these numbers and view them in terms of programmes aimed at the elderly population. In terms of government services, the retirement age in Nepal differs from profession to profession—58 years for civil service holders, 60 for teachers, maximum of 65 for judges, among others. Then they are eligible for pension.

For those who are not pensioners, they are eligible for state allowances. The government provides Rs 500 per month for people who are above 70 years while the age bar is 60 for old people in Karnali and the Dalits.

“Studies on old age and the security system carried out so far show that living standards often decline for people at old age. Reduced economic opportunities and deteriorating health status frequently increase their risk of vulnerability to poverty as people age,” a 2012 report on Assessment of Social Security Allowance Programme in Nepal reads. “The absence of resources or income sources increases the risk of individuals, households and communities falling below the poverty line due to insufficient consumption and access to basic services. For those who are already below the poverty line, the absence of an income source increases the risk to remain in or to fall further into poverty.”

However, this scheme has been frequently criticised for lacking transparency in the fund distribution. “The allowances have been a great relief to the people. But how many of them are benefiting remains largely unknown,” said Krishna Murari Gautam, chairman of Ageing Nepal, an NGO working for the rights of old people.

Gautam said 21 cases of hurdles in allowance distribution were reported in 2012, which is just a tip of the iceberg. Among the reports, many dealt with the VDC secretary forging signatures of the elderly to pocket their allowances.

This programme was introduced in 1995 as a political agenda to buy votes. This was widely popular and was hence continued. The sum of money has also increased from Rs 100 to Rs 500 over the years. The scheme was widely misused during the insurgency period when the VDC secretaries, who are responsible for the allowance distribution, were never present in the localities.

“Despite problems in implementation, our social security scheme of providing old age allowances has been received well by the international community as it is universal for people above age 70,” said Sangita Niroula, country director of HelpAge International Nepal.

In terms of health care, the government has recently initiated geriatric care centres at the hospitals. This, however, is yet to be effective. Surya Prasad Shrestha, under-secretary at the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare, accepted that these centres have not been much effective.

“But the initiation is for a noble cause and we are also new in the area,” said Shrestha. He said that they have been slowly piloting the establishment of day care centres and studying land right issues.

According to the National Population and Housing Census (2011), there are 2,154,410 senior citizens who are above 60 in the country. They make eight percent of the population.

 Source:  The Kathmandu Post (Nepal) October 8th, 2013

Compiled by : Manisha Shrestha

 

 

“Daughter is to son-in-law while son is to daughter-in-law; only husband belongs to you,” said an elderly woman found on the streets of Lagankhel. She did not want to tell her name and said she had been living in the streets since the death of her husband. Hailing from eastern Nepal, she lives all alone on her own even though she has her children. She said with a sigh, “children, nowadays, do not belong to us. I raised them with so much love but now they have found their own ways. When little, we fear about something bad happening to them, and now, it is just the opposite; we have to live with the fear that they might do something bad with us.”
She has crossed 80 by age. When she was healthy and physically strong, she lived an independent life. Time has changed. It is not the same case now. With passing time and old age, life has become harder for her. She entered the city with hopes of a better living, the decision which she regrets as of now. Shortly, her husband succumbed to death after suffering from some disease. She single-handedly raised her children with much difficulty and hardships hoping they would take care of her later in her life even though she lost her husband. Sadly, her hopes and dreams shattered. Her son, her only hope, left her on her own. She lamented, “Everyone detests you in the city if you cannot earn by yourself. My son’s attitude towards me changed after he got married, so I left them.” Now, she lives in the streets and begs for living. The streets of the capital have now become her home and she eats whatever she can get from a rupee or two given by the passerby.

Most of the women become the victims of domestic violence and are vulnerable to the physical and mental abuse from their in-laws and sometimes even husbands while the rest of the women are tortured by their own children after their husband’s death. Nepal being a patriarchal society, generally, husband acts as the head of the family. The legacy is then passed on to the son after his death. In this scenario, there are instances and evidences of women being misbehaved and ill-mannered by their own children.

Such another woman is Hiradevi Shrestha. She has four children yet she is living a lonely life without anyone to look after her. She has no food to eat and no place to live. She sells maize and vegetables on the roadside as per the season to make her ends meet. She has crossed 71. “I have a daughter but she has her own family.” She has been rejecting her daughter’s frequent requests to stay together with her and said, “Even though I want to stay and live with her, it is impossible to adjust along with my son-in-law and grandchildren all in a same room.”

Not only a daughter but she has sons too but was quite reluctant to speak about them. She further said, “We had a good life as long as my husband lived but all the sons went their own ways after his death. As of now, I don’t even care about their whereabouts.” Haridevi, now, has found shelter in the periphery of Bhadrakali temple. She eats wherever she gets to and whoever invites her. She usually eats at a nearby hotel which does not charge her anything.

Generally, women who do not have their husbands have worse conditions than that of the men whose wives are deceased. Their days of sorrow start right after they become physically weaker and that they can no longer make an earning and help financially.

According to researcher, Tej Adhikari, the senior citizens in the rural areas fully depend upon their family in comparison to those living in the urban areas. Those in the urban areas generally tend to engage themselves in household chores and babysitting their grandchildren. While, the economically stronger citizens involve themselves in religious activities, the elderly women from a relatively poorer background have a hard time living with problems fulfilling their basic needs like food and shelter.

The government of Nepal has declared the population above 60 years of age as elderly. According to the data of 2068 B.S., 8.13% of the population is over 60 in average. According to a recent survey done by an organization, the population is increasing by 3.5% annually. The government has been providing Rs. 500 monthly as a social security allowance to the elderly citizens, which is very minimal as per the activists working in the favor of the rights of the senior citizens. Even the facilities solely meant for them in the public vehicles have also not been yet implemented.

The younger generations might be physically healthy but it is the older generations that are the experienced ones. Their experiences can help a lot to the youths. However, due to the changing time and the increasing like for a nuclear family, the lives of the senior citizens are at stake. On top of that, moreover, it has adversely impacted the lives of the elderly women. They are left homeless, uncared and unloved. Therefore, it is the duty and responsibility of every family to look after their parents, especially mothers. But on the contrary, they are considered as a burden because of their degrading health. Hence, if they are provided with proper medical care and treatment, almost half of the problems get solved.

Source: Himalaya Times (Nepali Daily), September 06, 2013. 
Translated by : Janu Rai

Chitwan, Bhadra 18,

The elderly Bhujel couple, 89-year-old Pabahadur Bhujel and his wife 79-year-old Belimaya, of Dhading, Taparsu, finds it hard to forget about the cave they lived in and still reminisces about the past. They now think of their belongings that they left in the cave before coming to reside in Divyasewa Niketan at Churiyamai-3, Ratomate, Makwanpur. Pabahadur said, “There were oil, spices, salt, some rice and maize and wheat flour in the cave,” and wished to go to the cave to observe the cave as well as bring in their belongings.

After living a lonely life in cave because of poverty, they are now friends with other elderly in the old age home; Bhawanath Pandey, Masinimaya Shrestha, Saraswati Niraula and Tilrupa Gautam. There are other two elderly Lamas there in the ashram. Smoking is prohibited in the ashram; therefore, they want to visit the cave for to quench their thirst of smoking too. “They give us sweets instead of cigarettes,” said Belimaya with chocolate in her hands, “how can this replace the addiction of cigarettes.”

The cave they lived in before was quite open and unsafe. “We have beds and life is more easy and comfortable here; however, we still love the care,” Belimaya said. She continued, “It is hard to forget the place that gave us shelter when we had no place to go.”

They ended up living in the cave of Dhading, Dhaireni, after becoming homeless two years ago. “Someone from our own village bought our land but did not give us a penny,” Pabahadur said, “and we became homeless.”

They do not have to beg for food here in ashram as opposed to when living in the cave. Fulmaya Basnet, another elderly in the ashram cooks for everyone there.  Mina Waiba who also looks after the ashram helps everyone out there.

The couple, who had found shelter in the cave after they had nowhere to go, was rescued by Buddhiprasad Regmi of Kathmandu and retired Gurkha, Purnabahadur Gurung, on Bhadra 7, and was rehabilitated at Divyasewa Niketan located in Ratomate, Makwanpur.

The ashram is under construction with an aim to provide shelter to 200 elderly. There are nine elderly now along with the Bhujel couple. The ashram, in the midst of the jungle, is under construction with well facilitated building, hall and hospital according to the Director, Tejram Niraula. After working as an army engineer all his life, he now wants to dedicate his life in social service.

Belimaya, the ninth wife.

It has not been long since Pabahadur and Belimaya met each other.  After the death of her husband, it was hard for Belimaya to meet ends while her three children were busy in their own lives. She had to beg for food after not being able to live with them. On the other hand, Pabahadur, still childless even after marrying eight wives, was working alone in mill. “I had soft corner for her when she asked for food every day.” When his Sahu suggested him to live together with her since both of them were alone, he heeded his Sahu’s words, sold his house so as to eat good food as he had no children. Sadly, he got no money out of it.” He further added that he was not given any money telling that the loan taken by his father got nil now. For Belimaya, Pabahadur holds a place higher than the stone god. However, Pabahadur’s favorite is Bishnumaya out of all nine wives. “The first marriage happened when I was still a child. I was unaware about what marriage was and hence it did not work out.” He said, “I married Bishnumaya after liking her. She passed away after 15 years of marriage without bearing any child.” “After that, I married six wives but no one lived more than a year or two.”

Source: Nagarik Daily , September 04, 2013.
Translated by: Janu Rai 

 

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