HelpAge International calls on the African Union to challenge discrimination against older women

PEG: The 26th African Union Summit takes place from 21-31 of January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

HelpAge International calls on the African Union to challenge discrimination against older women.

Addis Ababa, Friday 22 January 2016: HelpAge International is urging African Union (AU) member states to protect the rights of older women across the continent as they meet at the 26th Africa Union Summit (21-31 January). The summit marks the start of the Africa Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the rights of women.

"The focus on women’s rights is a huge step forward for gender equality across Africa," said Dr Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director for East, West and Central Africa (EWCA) at HelpAge International, welcoming the focus on women’s human rights by the AU.

"But progress can only be made if human rights are protected at every stage of every woman’s life. The discrimination that older women are subjected to, based on their older age and their gender, must be recognised and addressed," he said.

Thirteen years ago, in the 2003 Maputo Protocol on the rights of women, the AU recognised that the challenges older women face to their human rights requires particular attention, including securing right to freedom from violence and to be treated with dignity.

Despite this, older women continue to be discriminated against. They are subjected to different types of violence and abuse, denied access to healthcare and an adequate standard of living, and treated with disrespect.

In a study conducted by HelpAge International in Mozambique in 2012, 38% of older women surveyed said they had been subjected to financial abuse since the age of 50, 18% to physical abuse, 5% to sexual abuse, 42% to malicious accusations and 50% to emotional abuse.[1]

This level of violence and abuse remains hidden. Data on violence against women is rarely available beyond the age of 49 and older women themselves are reluctant to talk about or report the violence they experience.

When asked how being treated differently because of her age made her feel, an older woman from Uganda said: "At times I feel affected and lonely, especially when I am told that what is being done and discussed is not for me as I am old."

Another older woman, also from Uganda, said: "We feel isolated and alienated as if we are animals."[2]

Jamillah Mwanjisi, EWCA Regional Head of Policy and Advocacy at HelpAge International, said: "The time has come to end this discrimination and denial of older women’s human rights."

She believes this year's theme on women’s human rights could not have come at a better time as it will spur on the continent to heed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to "leave no one behind" in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by UN member states last September.

Older women's rights will also come under the spotlight at the AU Summit when heads of state consider the adoption of a new human rights protocol on the rights of older people in Africa. Whilst this applies to all older people, a specific article guarantees older women rights to freedom from violence and rights to land, property and inheritance.

According to UN data, there are currently 71 million women over the age of 50 across Africa. This is predicted to rise to 111 million by 2030.[3]


About HelpAge International

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.

Media Contacts:

1) Jamillah Mwanjisi, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, HelpAge International, EWCA, Skype: Jamillah.mwanjisi; email:

2) Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, London, tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623. mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624; email:; Skype: sarah.gillam.hai (HelpAge)

[1] Developing an indicator-based framework for monitoring older people’s human rights: panel, survey and key findings for Peru , Mozambique and Kyrgyzstan, HelpAge International and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, 2013

[2] In Our Own Words: What older people say about discrimination and human rights in older age, Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, 2015

[3] Calculated from World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision, Visited 21/01/16


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