Fighting Discrimination Against Older Women
At the age of 80, there are 55 men for every 100 women.
As the population of older women increases, the fight to end gender and age discrimination becomes ever more important. Few statistics of aging illustrate the gender divide and the additional challenges older women face often due to a lifetime of gender-based obstacles in education, health care, employment, and social benefits.
Older women are often seen as no longer economically or biologically useful. This can cause women to be seen as a burden on the family or the community leading to marginalization or even abandonment.
Fighting for justice
HelpAge continues to fight to open the dialogue on older people. Many international laws, conferences, and reports fail to look specifically at older women. Through increasing awareness of older women's unique contribution to society and the special challenges they face, older women can begin to access their human rights.
The UN`s Division for the Advancement of Women created a convention in 1979 focusing on ending discrimination against all women (CEDAW). Recently, CEDAW has begun to include older women, and HelpAge has been urging the committee to create a General Recommendation on the rights of older women, which is now in creation.
Areas of Discrimination
Forms of discrimination against older women vary from country to country, and older women in poorer countries are often most at risk. As the world ages, more forms of discrimination are presenting themselves, especially those related to climate change. The most common forms of discrimination are:
- Stereotypes: traditional and cultural perspectives of women and old age can lead many women to be put in situations of abuse or violence (physically, verbally, or financially) because they are seen as unimportant
- Participation on political life: women are often deprived of their right to participate in the political process or decision-making.
- Education: literacy rates amongst older women are much higher than older men often due to the lack of opportunity for learning when women were younger. The opportunities to learn for older women, especially in rural areas, are severely low. The lack of education can restrict their participation in public life and limit their access to services and entitlements.
- Employment: women are often forced into low paying jobs or unpaid world which prevents them from accumulating assets. In contributory social security, many women find themselves ineligible for a pension.
- Access to Health: postmenopausal conditions and diseases are often neglected in research, studies, and public policy in both developed and developing countries. In the developing world, few health personnel are trained in geriatrics, nonetheless the special needs of older women. In poorer rural areas, it is more difficult for older women to have access to health care that is affordable.
- Property and inheritance: widowhood or single status can result in discrimination in law and practice making it very difficult for women to access rightful inheritance or even own property.
How we are making a difference
Thanks to the CEDAW's General recommendation on older women and the protection of their human rights, states have a concrete list of recommendations to eliminate rights abuses against older women.
HelpAge has worked in a number of areas from health, disaster relief, and other services.
Examples of the difference we have made for older women around the world include:
- Helping more than 126,000 women receive improved access to health services
- Support services for families dealing with the impact of HIV/AIDS
- 12,800 women received primary healthcare services
- an estimated 88,000 women in 27 countries would report improved health status as a result of HelpAge's work according to a baseline survey
- Supporting nearly 14,000 women access a loan or financial service in 22 different countries.
- Over 200,000 older women received direct assistance to prepare, withstand, and recover from emergencies
- Assisting over 52,000 older women to realize their rights to services and practical support in 25 countries
- Mobilizing 30,000 women to take local action against discrimination
For more specific information on our five areas of policy, explore What We Do.