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‘Standing Against Elder Abuse’ is A short video by Reaping Hope to mark the 9th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2014.

Elder abuse is a major problem today, not just because of its severity but also because most of these cases are hidden. A large number of senior citizens face abuse everyday either one way or the other. And most of the abusers are none other than their own family members. The voices of senior citizens are not heard because they are unable to stand up on their own and now it’s time we raise our voices against elder abuse. This is a call to all youths to unite and stand against elder abuse, a request to initiate small steps to minimize abuse happening daily, knowingly or unknowingly. Know that your parents/grandparents and any other senior citizens are an important part of the society and help them live a dignified life in their golden years.

 

 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)

 

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

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Meet Kanchhi Karki, (Formerly, Kanchhi Gurung). Originally from Baskharka, Sindhupalchowk and currently residing in Telecom- Kirtipur, she owns a small mobile shop, commonly referred in Nepali as ‘Nangle Pasal’, in Tribhuvan University (T.U) premises. She has been living as a widow for 15 yrs now and currently lives alone in her rented room in Kirtipur. She got married at the age of 26 after which she left her hometown and came to Kathmandu to live a ‘HAPPY’ life in the city.

“Those times were so different”, she recalls with a smile. As they began to weave their dream of happy life, her husband got a job in Himal Cement Factory in Chovar which was, back then, a reputed company.

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After few years, she gave birth to a baby boy and their life was going to a direction they had always hoped for.

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Days passed by and her husband had already been serving Himal Cement Factory for 17 yrs. Everything was going great, until her husband began getting ill due to excessive alcohol intake and probably due to the nature of job he was doing. She did everything she could in treatment of her husband but unfortunately, he didn’t make it. “If only my husband was alive and well, we would’ve been living a lavish life, with our own house and better business than this.” she pondered. Every single penny from their saving was spent hoping for better health of her husband but was all in vain. IMG_6635cBy that time, her son had already began working in the same factory where his father did but the factory got shut down after some time due to conflict with the public of the area regarding environmental and health issues. Later, her son got married and went on to live separately with his wife, leaving Kanchhi alone with nowhere to turn.

Now-a-days, Kanchhi’s mornings start with sunrise and her regular cup of tea with light breakfast. She carries her ‘SHOP’ in her back and reaches her corner of T.U early around 8 in the morning where she stays for the whole day and returns to her room around 7 pm in the evening, after which she cooks herself dinner and eats alone and goes to sleep. IMG_6636ccThis has been her daily routine for 15 yrs now, whether it is a regular day, public holidays or the infamous Nepal Bandhs. While we normal working class people complain about our 8 hr jobs, she works for almost 12 hrs a day and that too, without any complaints. She says, “I only need god, nothing else. All these materialistic things are of no use in the end. This shop is enough to feed me a one- time meal every day and I do not have to get bored sitting at home.”

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During her stay in T.U every day, she gets to meet a lot of people, from beggars to professors. A lot of people come to her shop, especially for cigarette breaks, and among the smoke filled mist, you can find her chatting with people, listening to people talk and giving words of wisdom to whoever she meets.

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As I was talking with her and clicking pictures, she asked, “What will you do with this old woman’s pictures?” I told her that I am writing a short story of hers in the occasion of Women’s Day (‘Naari Diwas’ in Nepali) and asked her if she knew what Naari Diwas is. She thought for a while and replied with a smile, “Everyday is the same for me. Be it Naari Diwas or Dashain (the greatest festival celebrated in Nepal by Hindus) or any other day. I don’t even care about the politics and these politicians,” she laughed. I wondered why she related Women’s Day with politics but soon realized that she is an uneducated senior citizen, like many others here in Nepal. She didn’t even have an idea on which year she was born. She knows about the Old age allowance our government provides to senior citizens but also knows the fact that the hardship she has to go through to get her monthly allowance of Rs. 500 is not worth the effort. She is a satisfied old lady with whatever she has, or say; with whatever fate has written for her. IMG_6647

It’s the great Women’s day today and a lot of SUCCESSFUL Women are celebrated in different parts of the world. Different events and programs have been set throughout the world to mark the Women’s Day. But there’s no one who’ll say to Kanchhi that she is a strong woman who has been surviving on her own hardship while most of other lonely old woman her age and her condition would have ended up in either some old age home or maybe in the streets. Today is also a just another day for her, where she’ll wake up early in the morning; pack her stuffs in a small bamboo-carrier and head out for just another day at T.U where she’ll sell cigarettes, toffees and biscuits to the ones who might as well be attending some extravagant event on the occasion of Women’s Day.

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Kanchhi’s corner

Calling it a Day

Calling it a Day

Reaping Hope. – 2013

Khandbari

Image Source: Himalayan News Service, February 12, 2013

KATHMANDU: The average life expectancy of people in Nepal is said to be 67 years. But on the other side, studies show that maximum number of people in Nepal has done multiple marriages at the age of 65 years. Statistics show that 65 years old male are found to be involved in multiple marriage more than others. Large number of Police and Army officials is seen to be involved in multiple marriages. Even though multiple marriages are regarded illegal, there has been very less complaints made against it. According to the census of 2058 B.S. the number of people who married more than once was 2, 71,525 among which 2,77,478 were male and 2,417 were female. Most importantly, among the total number of multiple marriages, 52,417 cases were that of people above the age of 65 years.

Source: Gorkhapatra, September 12, 2012

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