Cynthia Stuen, PhD, is the United Nations Main Representative for the International Federation on Ageing and was elected Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing/NY in 2019. She served as Vice-chair of the NGO CoA/NY from 2016-2019 and as its Program Subcommittee Chair during that tenure. She served as Co-chair of the 2015 UN International Day of Older Persons. She is Vice President of the Board of Directors of
Visions-Services to Blind and Visually Impaired and was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the International Federation on Ageing. During her 24 year tenure at Lighthouse International, Dr. Stuen served in various capacities with her most recent position as Senior Vice President, Chief Professional Affairs Officer that involved advocating for policy at the national, state and local level while also maintaining involvement in international efforts to preserve sight and prevent excess disability resulting from vision impairment. . Dr. Stuen is a past Chair of the American Society on Aging (ASA), She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and also the NY Academy of Medicine. Her numerous publications, presentations and research endeavors cover topics of age-related sensory loss, evidence-based electronic records, and access to environments for older adults.
COVID-19 and gender issues: Health inequities and older women in the Decade of Healthy Ageing
Amal Abou Rafeh is Chief of Programme on Ageing at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York. She serves on the Secretariat of the General Assembly’s Working Group for the purpose of strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons. Amal is a member of the Steering Committee of the Titchfield City Group on Ageing-related Statistics and Age-disaggregated Data. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Healthy Ageing and Longevity 2020-2021.
Amal joined the United Nations in 2001, working in the areas of social policy, sustainable development and demography, and served on the Secretariats of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) and the High-level Meeting on Youth (2011). She held positions in Beirut and New York. Before joining the United Nations, Amal lectured on analysis of social and demographic data.
Amal was born in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and holds a Master of Science in Population Studies from the American University of Beirut.
Mabel Bianco, MPH and specialist in Epidemiology and Medical Statics. President and founder of FEIM, an NGO working to improve women’s rights since 1989. Co-coordinator of Women Won’t Wait, a global campaign to eliminate VAW and HIV and Coordinator of the International Women AIDS Caucus. Director of the Latin American and the Caribbean Women Health Network (1991- 1999). She attended the Río Conference in 1992, Cairo Conference in 1994 and Beijing Conference in 1995 and did their follow up. In 2000/2001 she was Chief of the HIV/AIDS National Program in MOH and Coordinator of WB Project. Member of UNAIDS Reference group on HIV and HR (2002-2011). She was twice elected as NGO member of UNAIDS PCB. Member of Civil Society Regional Advisory Committee UNWOMEN till 2016. Since 2012, Co-Chair of the CoNGO CSW LAC. Member of WMG since 2014. Awarded by the Argentinian MOH, Women Deliver and Newsweek recognized her as one of the “150 women that moved the world” and in 2017 by NGO CSW NY as “Distinguished Woman of the Year”. She is author and editor of 10 books and more than 150 papers and articles. She was the founder and coordinator of the Women’s Human Rights Defenders for G20 Observatory’s as part of the W20 and local coordinator of the C20 Gender Group for the G20 Argentina 2018. She has been elected as Women’s Mayor Group WMG OP Organising Partner for Latin America and the Caribbean for period 2019-2020. In 2021 was elected Co Chair of the MGoS representing the WMG.
Papa Seck is the Chief Statistician at UN Women. Since joining UN Women in 2009, he has led statistics and data work at UN Women and has also contributed to the Research work of UN Women more broadly, including co-authoring two editions of Progress of the World ‘s Women as well as various other research products. He leads UN Women’s efforts to monitor the SDGs and for the past year has coordinated the UN System ‘s efforts to ensure the inclusion of strong gender indicators in the SDGs.He is currently leading the implementation of UN Women’s flagship programme initiative on gender statistics: Making Every Woman and Girl Count, to improve the production and use of gender relevant statistics and to help countries systematically monitor the Sustainable Development Goals form a gender perspective.
Erica Dhar is Director of Global Alliances with AARP’s Office of International Affairs. She has expertise working with the United Nations; advocating on issues of global aging, including the human rights of older persons; and on the sustainable development goals 2030 agenda. Erica manages the AARP Office of International Affairs in New York City, where she is responsible for relationships with international nonprofits, UN agencies and organizations dealing with aging, as well as international visitors. She spent 18 years in the broadcast and financial services industry. Erica received her bachelor’s degree with honors from Delhi University in India, a master’s degree in corporate political communication from Fairfield University in Connecticut, and a master’s degree from the New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Erica’s thesis on transnational caregiving was published and picked up by the NY Times.
Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing, Canada
Cynthia Stuen, International Federation on Ageing, United States
Amal Abou Rafeh, UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, United States
Mabel Bianco, UN Major Groups and Other Stakeholders, Argentina
Papa Seck, UN Women, United States
Erica Dhar, AARP, United Stated
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic magnified existing inequalities and vulnerabilities for older women. This symposium is part of three symposia focusing on older women. Currently women account for 54% of the global population aged 60 years and over, and 61% of those aged 80 years and over. It has been 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and women have not achieved gender equality. The remaining ten years of Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals coincides with the launch of the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 and it presents a unique opportunity to build forward better for overcoming the inequalities over the life course for women.
Older women become invisible as a result of a lifetime of being viewed as of lesser value. Girls and women are left out of education, left without adequate income and persistent poverty, undervalued in terms of unpaid work performed and underpaid in the workforce. Voluntary National Reviews and their lack of focus on older persons, especially women will be highlighted. The opportunities that the Decade of Healthy Ageing offer will highlight how important corrective action is essential to break the cycle of inequalities women face. The pandemic highlights that COVID-19 is a human rights issue and how it can be used to improve lives across the life course.
Focusing on women in less developed countries, those in rural areas and without access to technology will be addressed by a brief review of the Beijing Platform for Action and reporting on its shortcomings and identifying corrective action. Agenda 2030 has a specific goal addressing gender equality but the initial reviews are showing a lack of focus on corrective actions due to the pandemic. There are good best practices being implemented to achieve more person-centered care and some will be shared.
Using the data collected on COVID-19 relative to older women and men in terms of infection and death rates will be presented with the urgent call to action to prevent future inequities in addressing pandemics. Relative to achievement of Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a number of initiatives to overcome the lack of national data collection, especially older women and minority populations will be highlighted. Finally, how we can use COVID-19 as an opportunity and a Call to Action to proceed with a Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.
Presenter #1, Amal Rafeh
The world’s population is growing older, with women in the majority. Globally, the share of older persons is expected to increase from 727 million persons in 2020 to 1.5 billion persons in 2050, meaning one in six people globally will be aged 65 years or older. On average, women live longer than men, they constitute more than 55 per cent of the population at ages 65 and above and are more likely than older men to live alone. Globally, one in two people hold ageist attitudes towards older people with higher rates in low- and lower middle-income countries. Healthy ageing is about creating the opportunities that enable people to be and do what they value throughout their lives. The cumulative health impact of social and economic disadvantage or privilege sorts people into different life course trajectories that shape opportunities and vulnerabilities as people age. When ageism intersects with other forms of discrimination it can be particularly disadvantageous to older women, who are often socially or economically marginalized. Forward thinking calls us to address historic and continuing gender inequalities as a basis for future development through targeted policies to protect the human rights of older women and to enhance their lives.
Presenter #2, Mabel Bianco
An overview of elderly women status and their rights
To be healthy its more than the absence of illness, a definition by WHO is oriented to multiple determinants of health and a very important one is gender. We know women are more vulnerable to some factors than men and vice versa. Age is also important, young women have not the same risks to health as elderly woman. But being an older poor woman implies additional risks to their health status. Meanwhile the socio-cultural- economic determinants of health have been very well studied but still the differences and inequalities women experience, and especially elderly women are not addressed. The COVID-19 pandemic which affects more older people makes visible some of those inequalities the society didn’t notice.
Beijing in 1995 considered all women’s rights, but after 25 years there is still no country that could fulfill those goals. Now Agenda 2030 and the 17 SDGs, is very ambitious to be fulfilled by 2030. So nowadays older women, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean where race, urban/rural, migration and others determinants are present, requires addressing these factors to ensure equal right to all different women. Examples will be presented as well as some proposals of how to address in a holistic way.
Presenter #3, Papa Seck
Data Availability for Older Women in Agenda 2030
The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action which was intended to be ground-breaking for gender equality. Instead with the COVID-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back. The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerability in social, political and economic systems especially for older women. Women generally earn less, save less, hold insecure jobs, and/or do not have access to paid work or work informally. COVID-19 disproportionately took the lives of older persons as well as overwhelmed health and long term care systems. Gender based violence has been documented to have increased during the pandemic and older women are not exempt. As documented by first UN Report on Ageism (2021), over half the world holds ageist attitudes towards older persons. In order to ensure that No One is Left Behind, the pandemic, requires a gender and age lens be applied to all aspects of recovery. The inclusion and participation of older women in the process is necessary. Data availability across the lifespan are essential to document gains and areas for improvement for girls and women of ALL ages.
Presenter #4 and #5, Erica Dhar and Cynthia Stuen
Call to Action
The need for older persons to be involved at the grassroots in planning and policy development is essential to insure No One is Left Behind. COVID-19 is a human rights issue and provides the global rationale to address the shortcomings of existing human rights documents. Examples of countries taking action at the grass roots to address the inequalities for older persons and global organizations working on this issue will be shared with a call to action.