136 Growing Older
It is traditional in most places for families to live together
and for young people to care for their elders. But now many
women and men work away from their communities, often
traveling far from their homes to earn money to support their
families. Older people are now often left to care for themselves.
Older women are more likely than men to live alone.
Women usually live longer than men and often marry older
men. In many places women whose partners have died are
considered less important than married women. When an older
woman lives in a community that no longer values elders, she—
as well as her family—may feel that her health problems are not
worthy of treatment. Or services to treat her health problems
may not exist.
When an older woman is also very poor, the problems she
faces are much worse. She may not have the money to pay for
health care and medicines, to buy healthy foods, or to pay for a
healthy place to live.
Income earning projects. One way that older
women can improve their situation is by finding
ways to earn money to support themselves and
even help their families, such as:
• raising animals, like chickens, goats, or cows, and
then selling the eggs, milk, cheese, or meat.
• making bread or other food to sell.
• making traditional crafts or sewing things to sell.
Six widows living in a small community in El Salvador decided they wanted to
earn some money by raising chickens to sell for meat. None of them had ever
raised chickens before, but they asked a group that supports cooperatives to help
show them how.
After a local community association loaned them money, the group started
to work. At night the women took turns sleeping in the chicken coop to keep
animals and people from stealing the chickens. At dawn the women rose to kill
and clean chickens. Every day the women walked for miles to other communities
to sell the chickens, carrying them in baskets on their heads.
Men from their community—and even a specialist who worked with an
agency—all told them their project would not be successful. But the women
earned enough money to cover their costs, buy new chickens, and pay themselves
each about $45 a month. Although it was not much money, it was more than any
of them had ever earned before. And they gained respect in their community
because they had a successful business. As one of them said, “We never imagined
that we could run our own business. Now look at us. We are the bosses!”
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012