International Women's Day: HelpAge addresses violence against older women at the UN

04/03/2013

By Sarah Marzouk

This week, the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is taking place at United Nations headquarters in New York. The CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality and advancement of women. This year’s priority theme is “The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.

HelpAge is present at the CSW and is participating in events on “violence and widowhood” and “gender stereotypes”. We are also organising an event on the theme of “rethinking violence against women”.

The event coincides with International Women’s Day, which takes place on 8 March and celebrates the achievements of women while campaigning for greater gender equality.

Nyamizi was accused by a neighbour of bewitching his child. She was brutally attacked but her attacker was never brought to justice. Nyamizi was accused by a neighbour of bewitching his child. She was brutally attacked but her attacker was never brought to justice. (c) Jeff Williams/HelpAge International

Lack of data on violence against older women

At the CSW events, HelpAge representatives are highlighting specific questions relating to violence against older women. These include the issue that surveys on violence against women rarely collect data after the age of 49, meaning that the violence and abuse that millions of women may be experiencing is going unrecorded. This issue is only likely to grow with global population ageing and increased numbers of older women.

Another challenge is that data collected on violence against women is often limited to that of physical and sexual violence. What little data there is shows that older women, many of whom have experienced violence throughout their lives, are exposed to different types of violence: Physical, sexual, economic, psychological and neglect.

Indeed, a study conducted in Kenya showed that 60% of older women were being abused by their daughters-in-law who were preventing them from getting regular food, warm clothes, adequate shelter and medical attention. Despite this, older women and the different forms of violence they are subjected to continue to be excluded from the debate and responses on violence against women.

Education crucial to change attitudes towards older women

Bridget Sleap, HelpAge’s Senior Rights Policy Advisor commented: “The current international human rights system does little to shed light on violence against older women, nor support governments to understand their obligations to protecting and promoting older women’s rights.

“Coordinated action to improve policy responses at the national and international level on elder abuse, with specific regard to violence against older women, is urgently needed. Education and awareness campaigns are essential to change negative social and cultural attitudes towards older women. However, there is a paucity of quality research on prevalence and prevention, meaning that evidence-based programmes are few and far between.”

In joint statement written for the CSW, HelpAge and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) make three recommendations on how to achieve progress in these areas:

  • Collect, disaggregate and disseminate data on violence against women beyond the age of 49.
  • Improve measurement of psychological and economic violence.
  • Increase research on under-documented forms of violence against women, including psychological and economic violence.

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Dr M SINGARAJA (22nd April 2013)

    I AM ACTIVE WITH ELDER MOVEMENT FROM CHENNAI FOR THE PAST 2 DECADES IN VARIOUS CAPACITIES IN CITY, STATE AND COUNTRY LEVELS.MY APPRECIATION FORMUR WORK.

    INTERNAL OR UNSEEN VIOLENCE AT HOMES BY FAMILY MEMBERS AND EXTERNAL OR PUBLIC OR REPORTED VIOLENCE BY OTHERS INCLUDING THE GOVERNMENTS MUST BE SEPARATED TO FOCUS THE SIGNIFICANCE.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY U MUST SUGGEST PREVENTIVE MEASURES.

  • Anita (19th April 2013)

    i wish governments should set up homes or villages for elder people for better care, support,Counseling and or any other assistance in case one wants to visit just know where to find them.

  • Lillian Ocholla (18th April 2013)

    This is so great that HelpAge is bringing up this issue. I believe it is not so late.Violence Against Older Women is so common in Africa, especially amongst the Luo community in Nyanza Kenya. This happens due to either wife inheritance which has nothing to do with age, and also about land inheritance when one looses a husband and sometimes about wealth inheritance when a mother is left as a widow and as an administrator and your own sons turn against you to take away your wealth only because you are old.Most African men die without writing wills and this has caused alot of suffering to our mothers and grandmothers. Together we can stand up for them so that they are not left to suffer the humuliation alone.

  • mukose moses (18th April 2013)

    thanks for the efforts being put forward but there are so many challenges faced by the elderly persons especially in the villages simply because all the awareness is done around urban areas.there fore there is need for increased funding to those community organisations because they are down to the ground.Funding is mainly given to the Bigger organisations which some times dont reach the ground to find out the root cause and adress.

  • Gabriel (17th April 2013)

    Hello,

    I work with AGAPE AGE in CAmeroon and our mission is to provide better lifestyles for elderly persons. Please can you let me know some aspects in which older women and violated and what remedies you have postulated. Thanks

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