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Youthfulness Is Seductive But Do We Really Need To Portray Old Age As Repulsive?

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By Sayendri Panchadhyayi:

The societal response towards ageing is one of sympathy, ridicule, segregation and a systematic exclusion. Ageing is something that one wants to avoid, yet deep down there is a sense of inevitability concomitant with the process. It is undesirable as it beckons the erosion of youth, vitality, competency, respect and the social standing that a person earlier enjoyed. Youth is the most seductive phase and there is proclivity to hold on to youth to keep ageing at bay.

Elederly couple

The media representation of ageing is one of loss of confidence and self-esteem which are heightened through advertisements. Whether it is the anti-ageing products which persistently reinforce the significance of youth or the hair dyes that capitalizes through the mockery of grey hair which is a symbol of ageing. Health products like chawanparash or energy drinks emphasizes on the metaphor of youth which stands for vigour, strength and indomitable spirit. Punch lines such as ‘young at heart’ for the elderly individuals indicate that youth and aged are stark opposite phases, any display of so-called ‘youthful’ behaviour among the aged accrues applause and awe.

Hence, there is a predilection to embrace youth and delay ageing. This is all the more evident in the glamour industries of films and modelling- ‘40 is the new 20’ or ‘life starts at 50’ are some of the popular coverage that grabs instant attention. It is primarily because we are inquisitive and ready to don our thinking caps to investigate what makes the celebrities as young as their sons and daughters when they should have bid adieu to their careers. The curiosity towers when actresses are in question, the latest example being Sridevi giving a tough competition to the younger brigade through her looks as well as her acting skills. The favourable attitude towards the discourse of youth has resulted beneficial to the cosmetic surgery and fitness industry. However, the aged needs to sustain a borderline and not overstep it as it can lead to a loss of dignity. Therefore, a negotiation of personality traits needs to be ensured during social interaction and representation with the mainstream society. Through anti-ageing endeavours, the society bares its discomfiture with ageing and the aged.

The phenomenon of ageing is intertwined with the desexualisation of the aged. Movies woven around the aged people capture their insecurity in the form of loneliness, peripheral position and negligence but fail to explore the love life, changing sexual dynamics and how it impacts the relationship between the couple. The desexualisation of the aged is anchored in the presumption that sexual desires among the aged people are unnatural.

The aged people in the society are the most vulnerable along with women, children and the LGBTQ individuals. Although there is a consensus in the Indian society that the children should take care of their elderly parents and we should respect them but the reality narrates a different story. With the emigration of the youth for education, career and marriage, the elderly couple or the elderly person is left alone to face the peril of robbery, theft, self-execution of heavy workload at home which are complicated by the absence of government aided facilities to provide security and dignity to the aged in the society. In Kolkata, the strings of robbery followed by murder in the flats and snatching of precious ornaments from elderly women walking on the roads have invoked extreme fear and helplessness. An elderly woman is doubly vulnerable owing to her gender and age which makes her an easy bait of violation and perpetration. Where trying to avoid ageing and the aged is the normative code, criminal offences against the elderly generation intensifies their trauma.

This pushes them towards a shell where silence becomes the panacea to deal with the web of generation gap, solitude, injury of their social acceptance and the hovering threat to their well-being.

You must be to comment.
  1. Akhil Kumar

    Wonderfully written and a very important issue that needs to be discussed more.

    1. Sayendri Panchadhyayi

      thankuuu..:)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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