It gives me great pleasure to share, Innovative Practices for Care of Elderly Women in India, with you. This document has been prepared with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Stree Shakti – The Parallel Force. The aim behind this initiative is to promote the rights of ageing women and showcase effective models that are dedicated to restoring their dignity.
Women who are single, abandoned (‘half widows’) or widowed face multiple barriers due to illiteracy, malnutrition, abuse, isolation, ill health, lack of housing and exclusion from economic benefits. This is particularly true for the old. Recommendations from formal and informal consultations have pointed out the need for a systematic documentation of innovative initiatives that are being implemented by civil society and government to address the discrimination and inequalities faced by elderly women. This document has been prepared to facilitate awareness and exchange of information for mutual learning on the subject amongst different stakeholders and effective replication of such innovative ideas.
With support from UNFPA and cooperation of our civil society organisations, we have identified nine good practices from across the country. Though is not an exhaustive list of good practices, I am very proud to state that all the case studies documented in this resource book are unique and extraordinary in terms of their approach, outreach and sustainability. We have not only tried to highlight the replicable aspects of work being done but have also captured the processes and challenges. We hope that this would help others to better plan their work in this area.
I hope the information in this publication will be useful for the betterment of ageing women. Stree Shakti-The Parallel Force on its part would continue to raise the issues on different platforms for support and advocacy towards an “elderly-friendly policy” environment in particular and society in general. Our efforts will contribute to ensuring that elderly persons any where are able to age with security and dignity and to participate in their societies as citizens with full rights, in line with Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002.
Apart from working on this publication, during the last two years Stree Shakti –The Parallel Force has engaged with policy makers, organized four regional conferences in collaboration with academic institutions and women’s groups and built up a network of researchers to create awareness on the needs of ageing women.
I would like to share three major achievements of our efforts : issues of elderly women were incorporated in the Gender Manifesto prepared by women’s groups that was submitted to all national political parties before the General Elections in 2014. Ageing was included as an area for the allocation of funds under Corporate Social Responsibility. We are pursuing the issue of free travel on public transport to all woman above the age of 60. The Union Cabinet Minister Ms Maneka Gandhi has also supported the issue in 2015.
I am very grateful to Kumari Selja, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha for her guidance and Kanta Singh, UNDP for her moral support, Mr. K.M. Sathyanarayan and Dr. Sanjay Kumar of UNFPA for their technical inputs and Dr. Prartibha Jain, Dr. Vibhuti Patel and Manju Joshi and Dr. Indrani Chakraborty for their active association. I would like to acknowledge our Advisory iv Group – Ms. Amita Joseph, Dr. Beenu Sen, Prof. Moneer Alam, Mr. Mathew Cherian, Prof. Neerja Mattoo, Ms. Rashmi Singh, Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Ms. Reshma Arif and Prof. Siva Raju – for their active role in the documentation process.
I would also like to thank my team and the researchers for their support and hard work in putting this document together. A special mention needs to be made of my colleague, Dr. Aarati Saxena, for her constructive role while the case studies were being prepared and Sulagna Choudhuri for leading the research and giving final shape to the document within a short period of time.
Most important, I would like to congratulate the organisations featured here for the great work they are doing for ageing women and thank them for their cooperation.