For people in India it is usual to live with their families, also when they are adults, in a multi-generational way. Thereby several generations are living together. After the wedding, it is normal for the bride to move into the house of her husband and his family. Older family members, which took care of the children in the past, will need care and attention. Now, the Ideal conception is that the younger members of the family look after them and the older share their wisdom and their knowledge with the rest of the family.
However, in rural communities, which are in Rajasthan marked by drought and poverty, the reality looks different. Particularly older women have many duties in the household and childcare. A physically exhausting task, which often goes unrecognized. Moreover, women are still disadvantaged. For example, women in rural areas are mostly low educated, because instead of going to school, they walk a long distance to collect water. As a moved-in woman without an approved job, the woman is totally dependent on her husband and his family. What is more, older women are more dependent on someone than older men. In addition, there is no general pension system in India.
Often families in rural areas have barely enough to take care of the whole family. The care and needs of older people are put completely backward. Even older people believe their own food and nutrition is less important than the younger ones in the family. Furthermore, medical care is far away and therefore hard to reach for the older population. Often older family members are perceived as a burden. Older people, especially woman, have often no high regard or the right to speak in the family and the community, because of their dependent status.
To improve the lives of the elderly, GRAVIS and Help Age International have teamed up to the project Water, Health and Nutrition in the Thar (WHNT). The focus of this project are older people and their access to water, nutrition, and health care and also use them to reduce drought. What is more, to create a network, where older people can help each other and include them successfully into the community. That is possible through Village Older People Associations(VOPAs), a group of older people. The program serves to support and improve existing VOPAs and to create new ones. To establish a VOPA, elderly people are mobilized by GRAVIS and their staff and trained in the field center. They are trained in the topics like health and nutrition, Horticulture, rainwater harvesting, as par-vets, rights, and entitlements of older people and self-care for elderly. Then, they share this knowledge with other people, especially older, in form of awareness camps. Also, they support older people in the thefinancial sector with access to micro-credit, livelihood grant schemes and job training leading. Moreover, they are responsible for planning, building and managing projects related to water security, agricultural and animal husbanding.
VOPAs are also documenting and reporting problems to GRAVIS. Thereby, GRAVIS has an overview and, in the event of an emergency, can assist the villagers with judicial help.
This creates accessible, clean water. Women do not have to walk so far anymore and can make better use of their time. Water can now also be used for washing, which benefits the hygiene. Especially for elderly people, clean water and a hygienic environment is very important, because of their weak physical health, they are more likely to get infected.
The VOPAs with older people as social leaders has not only a positive impact upon only the older people, they are helpful for the whole community. For example, behavioral change of the community related to health care. Older people can share their existing and newly acquired knowledge to the family and the village community. Trough VOPAs and their methods the elders have improved their reputation and income and found new projects to spend their time on. The woman leaders in the VOPAs are an inspiration to younger women and girls and a step towards equality. VOPAs work with other associations, for example, older women self-help groups (SHGs). Thus, they work with all age groups together and they are influencing every generation in the community.
On World Human Rights Day, December 10th, GRAVIS remembers older people, their challenges and their contributions. We look forward to serving the needs of older people with commitment and to ensuring older people are placed in the society with dignity.
Lena Boehning Volunteer from Germany Communication Coordinator at GRAVIS