CEDAW adopts general recommendation on the rights of older women


In a major step forward in the protection of older women's rights, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee has adopted a new general recommendation on the rights of older women.

Older woman caring for a child. The rights of older women are finally being recognised. Photo: Leila Anampour/HelpAge International

Age discrimination and ageism are rife and continue to be tolerated in all parts of the world. Women and men experience ageing differently. Though women live longer than men, they face discrimination and violation of their rights because they are women and because they are old.

NGOs played important role

This general recommendation outlines how the articles in CEDAW apply to older women, what obligations governments have to protect, respect and fulfil those rights and how they might do this.

NGOs have played an important role in getting this general recommendation. The NGO Sub-Committee on Older Women in New York, of which HelpAge is a member, has been calling for the CEDAW Committee to better address older women and ageing for the past 10 years.

NGOs, including HelpAge and its partners, were encouraged by the CEDAW Committee to submit information and evidence on older women's rights and the Committee held meetings to listen to what they had to say in both New York and Geneva.

Support from ageing and women's organisations grew, culminating in over 100 NGOs calling for the general recommendation's adoption this month. 

Ageing and gender must be addressed from the outset

Bridget Sleap, rights policy adviser at HelpAge International says

"If implemented, the General Recommendation will improve the protection of older women's rights in the 186 countries that have ratified CEDAW. Governments who have ratified the convention will be asked to provide more information on older women in their reports on how they are implementing the Convention.

"But it will also have an impact beyond CEDAW itself.

"2010 saw the creation of UN Women, the new UN body that brings together the different parts of the UN system working on women. UN Women is due to become operational from 1 January 2011.

"Increased attention by CEDAW to older women's rights will, we hope, help to convince UN Women to address ageing and gender from the very outset, taking a lifecourse approach to all its work and having dedicated staff working on ageing and older women."

Debate around older people's rights is increasing

The General Recommendation comes at a time of increased debate around the need for better protection of older people's rights under international law.

It is a important tool for highlighting to governments and to the human rights community more broadly the need to take older people's rights seriously.

Visit the CEDAW website.

Download the general recommendation No. 27 on older women and protection of their human rights.

Post a comment | 8 comments

Comments submitted for this page

  • Ojambo Justine (26 July 2012)

    This great news for care for caregivers interventions for african grandmothers. They struggle to care for orphans and yet little is done to care for their rights and needs.Recently we had to initiate the first ever granny beauty contest to provoke a debate on the challenges older women are facing to look after Aids orphans.Long live CEDAW you can visit our website www.pefoug.org for more visual
    information in the photo gallery

  • Annette Lawson (09 March 2012)

    it is such good news

  • Dolline Busolo (26 September 2011)

    This is great. There is indeed dire need to address discrimination and violence against older men and women. The biggest gap however is the reluctance by governments to domesticate the International human rights instruments such as CEDAW, to which over 186 countries are signatories.
    The open ended working group on ageing is an opportunity for us to use to pressurise the governments to join the discussions. Evidently,women's discrimination and abuse is a gender issue that begins at a tender age with the girl child.We as the HelpAge network should increasingly adopt both preventive and mitigative lifecourse approaches to our rights work. This approach will assist in increased integration of the child protection policy,MIPAA and reduce gender and age based violence

  • Mahamane Ibrahima (16 December 2010)

    Very important advance in older people's life. In Africa, we need more government attetion on elder abuse. Hope that step is not the last.

  • Anita Kelles (13 December 2010)

    This is an important step forward. Atthe same time, we need a more general UN Convention on the rights of elderly people.
    It seems also that many NGOs that campaign for women's rights are still very much in the "young-women" mode.
    Anita Kelles
    Senior activist

  • elijah mwega (09 December 2010)

    we are now moving the right direction well done and keep it up.

  • DitufucsRepo (02 November 2010)

    Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.

  • Badr EldinMohamed Ahmed (29 October 2010)

    I think the Governements all over the world needs to but clear and more Legislation to more actions on the Rights of Older People world wide and specially in Sudan, as one of the countries affected by Cival War in the South ans in Darfur Reigion where by thousnads of Older people living in power Condition in term of Health, Shelter, access to Services, Livelihood and the Right to participation and care, some efforts were done at the Capital Twon but does not has impacts on Older people in Emergeny situations. I am loudly joining my voice to the International capmgains to get Older People all their Rights.

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Fighting discrimination

HelpAge is fighting the discrimination that older women face from witchcraft allegations.

We work with communities in Tanzania to raise awareness of women's rights and provide practical support to vulnerable older women.

Find out how we helped Shiduki, 71, from Tanzania.


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