Commission on the Status of Women risks keeping older women invisible

joint logos AGE OWN-Europe INPEA


Brussels, Belgium – 12th March 2021

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The 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is about to start, and AGE, OWN and INPEA are concerned that older women might be left behind in the commitments member States take to renew their attachment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted 26 years ago.


The draft conclusions rightly put emphasis on a number of long-standing and newly emerging challenges to gender equality, in particular sustained gender-based violence, exclusion and challenges linked to digitalisation and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they mention older women specifically only once.

‘Older women have been suffering from the pandemic as well, by losing income and livelihoods during lockdowns, by being locked into isolation due to confinement measures in long-term care settings, by losing care and support services that supported their autonomy. In the health and social care sectors, many older women have been working without appropriate support or protection. This should be recognised and addressed by the CSW’ , said Maciej Kucharczyk, AGE Secretary-General.

‘Older Women have provided tremendous contributions by stepping in to provide unpaid care for grandchildren and relatives as formal care and education services are reduced’ , said Joke De Ruiter, Chair of Older Women’s Network Europe.

‘Older women may be suffering increased violence, abuse and neglect as they experience social isolation in lock downs and the shut down of community services and shelters’ , said Susan Somers, President of INPEA.

AGE just issued an article on International Women’s Day highlighting the challenges older women face during the pandemic, while OWN-Europe published a press release highlighting the key role older women play in the pandemic. AGE has also signed a joint call to improve the status of older women, addressed to the CSW. The new issues related to the pandemic come on top of longer-standing issues, such as the gender pension gap of 30% in the EU and higher poverty and social exclusion rates of older women, and the lack of knowledge and research into the phenomenon of gender-based violence in older age and lower proportions of life spent in good health than for men.

The UN Secretary-General has recognised the particular challenges to the human rights of older persons, including older women, in the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a call which had been supported by 146 of UN member States. The UN have set up the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, which has the mandate to develop normative elements to better protect the human rights of older persons, including older women. The Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, Claudia Mahler, is just collecting contributions in view of a report on the human rights of older women. These processes and developments should be reflected in the outcome of the 65th Conference on the Status of Women.


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Note to the editor

AGE Platform Europe is a European network of organisations of and for people aged 50+ aiming to voice and promote the interests of the 200 million citizens aged 50+ in the European Union and to raise awareness of the issues that concern them most.

OWN Europe is a think-tank and lobby group composed of older women active at local, national, and international level. We seek to influence strategy formula-tion, policy implementation, and change relating to older women’s human rights,as well as the development and delivery of services to meet the needs of older women across Europe. OWN Europe is member of AGE Platform Europe.

Acknowledging the diversity of culture, background, and life style of the world population, INPEA aims to increase society’s ability, through international collaboration, to recognize and respond to the mistreatment of older people in whatever setting it occurs, so that the latter years of life will be free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.


featured photo from ZDUS – Credit: Nevenka Vidmar

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