March 4, 2010 - Older Women: 15 Years Later – Where Are We Now?

March panel

L-R: Susan Li-Shu Chang, Margaret Owen, Ferdous Ara Begum, Anne Emerman

Summary: “Older Women:  15 Years Later – Where Are We Now?” March 4, 2010

Printable PDF copy of full text available here.

The March 2010 program was presented during the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women and was organized by Patty Day and Judy Lear, co-chairs of the Subcommittee on Older Women (SCOW) of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY. Besides the NGO Committee on Ageing, NY, other co-sponsors included the NGO Committee on the Family, NY and several NGOs*.

As the program was dedicated to the memory of Virginia Hazzard, Helen Hamlin’s poem in memoriam was distributed and Andres Castellanos, representing the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS), gave a 5 minute tribute. 

A panel of three advocates for older women focused on three issues which may affect women as they age, and which become more likely with increased age:  discrimination, widowhood and disability.

Ferdous Ara Begum, the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expert who has championed a proposal for a General Recommendation on older women, spoke about the process and the need such a recommendation. Noting that the 46th CEDAW session agenda has come out with our proposal listed for consideration, she urged NGOs to turn out in support. The session is scheduled for July 12-30, 2010.  Ms. Begum then reviewed the handout, “A 5-Step Plan to Make a Difference” on working with CEDAW.

Margaret Owen, head of Widows for Peace Through Democracy (WPD), talked about the plight of older widows throughout the world.  She cited numerous instances of discrimination from various countries as examples.  Her organization is also submitting a proposal for a CEDAW general recommendation on widows.

Anne Emerman, a life-long advocate for the civil rights of people with disabilities, shared her journey as a polio victim fighting for rights from access to participation.  Her experiences, while focused on New York City, highlighted issues and concerns which exist world-wide. 

Susan Li-Shu Chang, President of the Garden of Mercy Foundation in Taiwan served as respondent. She summarized the remarks and noted a common refrain: don’t give up—keep fighting!

The floor was opened for questions or comments to which the three panelists responded.  For example, Nadia Shmigel posed a question regarding long-term care.  The discussion on public policy planning considerations included cost, preference to remain in one’s own home, and the advantages of home health care.

* Assoc. of Former Intl Civil Servants, Gray Panthers, HelpAge International, Intl Council of Jewish Women, Intl Federation on Ageing, Intl Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse,      League of Women Voters-USA, World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations, Global Action on Ageing, Intl Council of Psychologists, Intl Assoc. of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Soroptomists Intl.

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