On International Women's Day, campaigners press for progress on violence against older women


Magene was attacked after being accused of witchcraft in Magu, Tanzania (c) Judith Escribano/Age International

(c) Judith Escribano/Age International

Magene was attacked after being accused of witchcraft in Magu, Tanzania

By Ellie Parravani

Today, on International Women's Day, people around the world are campaigning for equality and the end to discrimination and violence against older women.

They join thousands of activists who, as part of HelpAge International's Age Demands Action campaign, are raising their voices about how violence, abuse and neglect impacts older women.

Violence and neglect does not only happen behind closed doors. It can happen on public transport, in hospitals, and in shops and markets where older people are ignored, insulted and even attacked. For older women who have disabilities, widows or those who live alone, the risk of facing abuse like this is even greater.

"We spoke with 250 older women around the world about their experiences of violence, abuse and neglect. They told us they are discriminated against in many areas of their lives, and that many of them had experienced violence or knew someone who had. Yet their voices are often ignored," said Jemma Stovell, Campaigns Manager at HelpAge International.

"Older women remain invisible in data about violence against women, and are routinely excluded from policy and programmes to stop violence against women and girls. We must press for progress by making sure older women are not forgotten."

What is the HelpAge global network doing on International Women's Day?

ADA campaigners and older people's groups around the world are participating in events and demonstrations. These include:

  • In the Philippines and Nepal, older people will be speaking on radio programmes about older women’s experience of abuse in their countries. 
  • In Jordan, a workshop on older women's rights was organised in coordination with the Ministry of Social Development to raise awareness and make the space for older women to share their views about what these rights mean to them. Women are being encouraged to reflect on personal experiences and make recommendations on how overcome obstacles that prevent them from enjoying these rights.
  • In camps for people who have fled Myanmar in Bangladesh, we are gathering 200 older women in our age-friendly spaces to discuss women's rights and how they can be protected.
  • Organisations across the HelpAge global network will be sharing content about older women's rights on social media using the hashtag #PressForProgress.
  • Madeleine McGivern, Humanitarian Policy Advisor at HelpAge International, has written a blog on women's rights in emergencies.

Working towards a UN convention on ageing

Alongside our ADA partners, we are advocating for an international convention to secure older women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from violence, abuse and neglect, in all settings.

The right to equality and non-discrimination and to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect will be discussed at this year’s Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) on 23-26 July. The OEWG has been set up to find ways to better protect older people’s rights, including the possibility of an internationally-binding convention to protect the rights of older people.

"Older people's right to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect is not adequately protected in international human rights law, nor in the national legislation of many countries," says Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Adviser at HelpAge International.

"It is critical that older people are part of the discussion on how to change this and that governments consult them before the OEWG session in July."

Take action

We need your help to make sure older women are not forgotten. Help our campaigners #PressForProgress by sharing our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • McDonald Wilfred (12 March 2018)

    The International Day for Women was celebrated on 8th March, this a significant milestone achieved by the little progress made so far in terms of policy formulation that protects the rights of Older Women. So there should not be any time to relax, we must soldier on to push for progress in achieving total Rights and freedom from vices such as violence, abuse and neglect that dehumanized the vulnerable Older women in our Society.

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