“Everything changed when I joined a literacy class”
Women who could not access education earlier in their life are often at higher risk of abuse or violence due to their dependency to family members. Harimaya (name changed), an older lady from Nepal, shares her story.
As a child, I did not go to school. I spent my childhood rearing cows and buffalos and learned to weave. This means I spent most of my life not knowing how to read and write. At 15, I got married, but at the age of 57 I became a widow.
After my husband’s death, I became lonely so I went to live with my second son. Everything was going well, but after some years, my daughter-in-law started to humiliate me. She accused me of being a witch and I was there just for their money and property. I still remember the day when she abused me physically and ripped my clothes. Yet, my son didn’t try to defend me; he was just there like a statue.
That day, I left the house. I lost everything I had. But, instead of losing hope I convinced myself to live independently. I had only Rs.300 in my pocket ($2.6 USD). With that money, I started selling fruits and vegetables. After that I started to weave woolen garments.
My weaving business got better day by day. But I was lonely and missing my children. One day I decided to visit them. When I tried to enter the house, my daughter-in-law threw a coin from balcony and asked me to take it and never return to this place. I was devastated. It broke my heart. Out of my six children only my youngest son speaks to me. Now I live with him in a rented flat.
I didn’t take action against my children because I was helpless at that time. But everything changed when I joined a literacy class organised by Ageing Nepal. Being able to read and write gave me confidence. I joined a senior citizens society to work to protect the rights of senior citizens in Nepal. And now I realise I am one of many older women who have faced abuse. We need more organisations fight against this ageism we face, and for the rights of older women like me. Being able to read and write is very important protecting oneself in this society, so we must support older women in this way.
Harimaya, 77, Nepal
With thanks to Ageing Nepal, a member of the HelpAge International network. HelpAge and its network members are campaigning to #ExposeAgeism. Follow the conversation here!