Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Older Women

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) commit the world to halving extreme poverty by 2015. The prime candidates for this assistance should be the very poorest, including older women. While the MDGs have specific targets on children and youth, they are silent on issues of age (HelpAge International, 2005), including older women.

MDG 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger among older women and their families. (CEDAW Article 13 – access to finance: Micro-credit and finance schemes can have age limit restrictions that prevent older women from accessing them. CEDAW Article 16 – property and inheritance – In many settings the state of widowhood or being single due to divorce or never having been married profoundly changes older women’s status and can result in discrimination both in law and in practice, particularly in terms of property and inheritance rights.) (CEDAW Article 11 – employment and social security – many older women live in poverty, having worked in low paid jobs or in unpaid work all their lives, unable to accumulate assets.)

MDG 2 – Achieve universal primary education. (CEDAW Article 10 – Education: the illiteracy rates among older women are high due to having been unable to access education when they were young. Promote a package of social protection for older women to include education (also see MDG 8).

MDG 3 – Promote gender equality and empower older women. (CEDAW Article 7 – Participation in political and public life – Older women are often discriminated in terms of not being given the opportunity to participate in political processes and decision-making)

MDG 4 and 5 – Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health

Older women, as mothers, grandmothers and traditional birth attendants play an important role in the family and supporting parents with young children. Targeting older women with support and information can reduce child mortality and improve the health of their mothers (HelpAge International, 2005). Women who have had unprotected sex, multiple births, or who sustain injuries while giving births, can face a life of compromised health according to participants’ testimonies at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women in the Older Women’s Tent.

MDG 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

HIV/AIDS is having devastating economic, social, health and psychological impact on older women. They are carers and providers of those orphaned or ill from HIV/AIDS and are themselves at risk of infection from the virus (HelpAge International, 2005). Evidence suggests that older women are greatly affected by HIV/AIDS, and this is increasing.

MDG 8 – Develop a global partnership for development

Interventions must follow principles of equity, participation, intergenerational development and effective aid for the older women who are among the most vulnerable of all populations internationally (HelpAge International, 2005).

Equity: Non-discrimination

Participation: Bottom up and transparent (also see CEDAW Article 7 – participation in political and public life)

Intergenerational development: Recognize and support reciprocal intergenerational relationships between older women and young women and children.

Effective aid: Promote a package of social protection for older women including health, education and social pensions. CEDAW Article 12 – access to health – post menopausal conditions and diseases tend to be neglected in research, academic studies, public policy and service provision.) (Also see: Older women and Beijing: 15 years on – Older women and health)

Strategy: The above begins to integrate MDGs and Older People (HelpAge International 2005) and the Recommendations on the adoption of a General Recommendation on the rights of older women. Also to be integrated: Older women and Beijing: 15 years on An untapped resource (HelpAge International, 2009), Ageing, Discrimination and Older Women’s Human Rights from the Perspectives of CEDAW Convention by Ferdous Ara Begum, and UNDP website on Millennium Development Goals (

NGO Committee on Ageing • PO Box 1854 • New York, NY • 10163-1854