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Pragyaa Rai is the President of Apeiron in Nepal – an NGO working on women empowerment through literacy, micro-enterprise, vocational and life skills training fighting against prejudices, violence and inequalities.

As a Master’s degree holder in Gender Studies, she has the working experience of 13 years with special roles in fund-raising, crowd-funding campaigns, strategic planning, programme coordination, networking, leading, coaching and maintaining PR while also securing space in global platforms like Girls Not Brides International as Asian Network of Women’s Shelters and developed innovative projects like Roving Female Friendly Spaces post disaster. Excerpts of the interview with her at a programme Youth Elder Speak (YES) on Gender Based Violence with focus on Elderly Abuse recently conducted by Bihani:

How did your journey begin with APEIRON and your interest in gender based violence?

Thirteen years back I was trying out for different career paths. Coming from a community and a family where there is no gender discrimination, this issue became intriguing to me. I felt for the survivors of gender violence and I wanted to understand where this violence comes from. Working in various projects at APEIRON, I got deeper into it and worked on related issues which have now become part of me.

Gender based violence is hugely prevalent, what can be done to sensitize the issue?

A lot actually! Campaigns, events, programmes, advocacy, policies, etc. are very effective but other agents of change have been missed out on in previous years. Men, boys, elders and children should also be included in creating awareness or be a part of bringing this change, therefore sensitization approach should be addressed to them as well. Men and boys should be involved in the process as partners and allies because their efforts are essential to minimise gender inequality. Elders should be educated about these issues for which I believe they can act as agents of changes. I always believe that schools play a vital role in influencing and shaping minds, attitudes and behaviours. Engaging schools in the sensitization processes might be very effective and sustainable.

What are the different spheres of society that affects GBV?

Home, family, economy and politics. All these spheres affect Gender based violence and vice versa. Equal participation of women in political, economic and social spheres are the key ingredients to prosperous development.

Elderly abuse is not a new topic but a rather neglected one. How can we bring change in mindsets?

Nepal is an ageing society with evolving family and social structures where the government should be well-prepared and have plans to address the issues of elderly population. Sensitization on issues of elderly abuse is much needed. Involving people of all generations to come up with solutions and decisions can be one way to increase awareness. However, I feel that the issue of human rights of elders should be mainstreamed into policies and programmes as well. For example, organizations working against GBV should not only focus on women of reproductive ages, they should be able to provide the age disaggregated data of survivors and perpetrators as well. Health and social services should prioritise fundamental rights of older persons.

What are the types of elderly abuse and the signs we need to look out for?

We can see changes in the behaviours, financial status, physical conditions and emotional state in elders suffering from abuse. Elders with poor hygiene, depression symptoms and lack of basic amenities, unexplained bruises and withdrawn behaviour are common warning signs that indicate elder abuse is occurring. We can try to talk to them and make a call to organisations working for elders such as Bihani to understand how we can help them further.

It takes time for people to internalize issues even if they are well aware of the facts and figures. How can we change this?

Internalizing a new concept/belief takes a lot of commitment. We should start with ourselves by practicing and making the right effort to learn, acknowledge and stay motivated towards the issue.

As a daughter yourself, what do you think are some of the things we need to keep in mind while fulfilling our duties towards our parents?

I believe, as a child of my parents (not as a daughter), I try to communicate with my parents about my limitations, expectations as well as listen to theirs. I am a parent now which is a new phase for me but I also understand that it is new for them. I am sure I will never be able to give them back as much as they did for me but I will try my best. The only duty we have towards our parents is to love them unconditionally.

Suman Rai is the Social Activities Coordinator at Bihani Social Venture. He can be reached at: sumanrai.bsv@outlook.com
Bihani is a social venture born out of the need to create a positive outlook to life and living meaningfully with focus on individuals above fifty years of age (but not restricted to it) who want to re-engage, re-explore and re-live a new beginning or create a rewarding life second half of their lives based on their past experiences.