Sabina, 15, envisions social transformation through senior citizens
‘We see many sons and daughters who expel their parents from home when they grew old. They don’t even get proper food, care and support. Elderly people have to go far away if they want to stay at an elderly home. If I were in charge of the community, I would build an old age home and day care center for the elderly. They would receive care, love and support from the home. It would be elderly friendly, with a refreshment room where they can enjoy news, religious songs, dance, and stories. We would also teach them about the need for changing social norms like restriction during menstruation, son preference and other superstitious beliefs. Elderly people are more connected with social norms, values and ideology. We can mobilize them to teach the community about healthier social norms and values, though it takes time to change.’
The world’s population is ageing – people aged 65 or older accounted for 524 million in 2010 and soon there will be more elderly people in the world than children. In many communities, the elderly are influential figures, and if supported, can play an important role in social change pertaining to harmful practices in their communities. Social norms can have strong impacts on girls’ lives, health, and futures. For example, when there are common beliefs around marriageable age for girls, early marriage is likely to be a common practice. Female genital mutilation / cutting (FGM/C) is a procedure that injures female genital organs for non-medical reasons, usually performed on girls under the age of 15. Over 200 million girls and women have been cut in some communities in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Son preference practiced in some communities in Asia – where families prefer sons over daughters – results in abortions of female fetuses and female infanticide, and neglect of girls. It is estimated that between 90 and 100 million women and girls are missing today most notably in India, China, but also in other countries, which severely skews sex ratios. This demographic crisis fuels human trafficking of women for wives, and social unrest. While many social norms often limit girls’ opportunities, not all are harmful to the girls, some can encourage and support girls to attend school, and develop life skills.