At age 67, Bibi Shagufta is learning to find new purpose in her life and reconnect with others.

Bibi Shagufta never learnt to read or write. She’s never had a job, nor gained the skills to earn a livelihood. But that doesn’t mean Bibi Shagufta never worked. Marrying young, she learned to run a large household and care for a family. She had four children, raised them and put all her time and energy into ensuring they got the education she didn’t. She and her husband supported their kids through school, secured their marriages and helped them all set up their own homes. Bibi Shagufta always spent her life in the background, feeding, clothing and working to ensure the success of her husband and children. But the family she invested so much in, eventually grew apart.

After her husband passed away, Bibi Shagufta moved into her son, Arif’s household. There she resumed her responsibility as matriarch, supporting her daughter in-law in raising her two grandchildren, and sharing the responsibility of domestic duties. They were happy for a while, but Arif always complained about a lack of opportunities in Pakistan. Eventually, he received a job offer from an IT company in the UAE.

Arif didn’t hesitate to accept the new job. He and his family immediately started preparing for the move abroad. No one gave a thought to Bibi Shagufta, and none of her daughters offered to take her. Before he left, Arif brought his mother to Lahore and checked her into Ashiana care home. When he left, Bibi Shagufta felt she was completely alone and completely helpless.

Despite our Islamic values, a growing number of vulnerable older adults are abandoned to a life of poor health and isolation in predominantly Muslim countries like Pakistan. Migration, urbanisation, changes in value systems and aspirations, as well as changes in the role of women in society and the breakdown of the traditional family -all of these have played a part in eroding the traditional family support system.

Bibi Shagufta is one of twenty-five older adults who live at AMWT’s Ashiana care home. She is still recovering from the shock of abandonment, but has a support system of staff and fellow residents who are there for her. Bibi Shagufta also receives all her basic needs like food, clothing and healthcare. Had it not been for the sponsorship she receives, she has no idea where she would be today.

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