UNDP Around the world

Helen Clark: Statement for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Jun 15, 2016

Photo credit: Ruhani Kaur/UNDP India

 

Leaving No One Behind: Recognizing Older Survivors of Gender-Based Violence  

With most of the discussion about gender-based violence focused on women and girls of reproductive age, the particular vulnerability to gender-based violence of older women is often overlooked. This year, however, as work begins towards implementing Agenda 2030 and its commitment to “leave no one behind", the international community has a powerful opportunity to recognize and address the multiple forms of violence affecting older women.

Today, the United Nations commemorates World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which calls attention to the often invisible abuse, violence, and neglect experienced by older persons—mostly women—throughout the world. Defined by the World Health Organization as harm to an older person age 60+ through any single or repeated act, elder abuse includes physical or sexual violence; emotional or financial abuse; and neglect and abandonment.  As a result of the cumulative impact of lifetime gender disparities, older women are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.  

This awareness is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, which is the first international framework that doesn’t put an age cap on the collection of data for intimate partner and sexual violence. Traditionally, globally comparable data has only been collected from women of reproductive age, or between 15 and 49. The indicators in SDG 5 on violence against women will measure the prevalence of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence among those “aged 15 and older,” paving the way for measurements of the experiences of violence of women of all ages.

UNDP supports partners to prevent and address gender-based violence and is working to address the needs of older women and support them to lead productive and creative lives. 

Some examples include:

• Working with Ministries of Health to train providers administering critical services, such as gender-based violence services and HIV testing, to change stigmatizing attitudes that act as barriers for older women to access care; 

• Supporting countries to create or revise National Action Plans on violence against women or gender-based violence to include older women as a key population impacted by violence, including by enacting laws criminalizing elder abuse or removing laws that prevent widows from inheriting land and property and leaves them more vulnerable to abuse.  

• Enhancing the capacity of national statistical commissions to collect age and gender-disaggregated data for women past age 49.

With nearly one quarter of the global female population aged fifty or above, we will not succeed in preventing or adequately responding to gender-based violence if we don’t recognize and meet the needs of this population. Ensuring that women of all ages are included in all aspects of development and supported as contributors to their families, communities and nations will bring us closer to realizing the ideal of “leaving no one behind.”