UNFPA, policymakers discuss feminisation of ageing in SL | Daily News


UNFPA, policymakers discuss feminisation of ageing in SL

The life expectancy of a Sri Lankan woman is 79 years as opposed to 72 years of a Sri Lankan man. This means that at age 60, women in Sri Lanka can live 19 more years compared to 12 more years for men. With the fastest growing ageing population in South Asia, it is predicted that by 2030, one in five Sri Lankans will be over 60 years. With the majority of Sri Lanka’s ageing population being women, the feminisation of ageing brings about unique challenges and opportunities that the country must be prepared for.

This year’s World Population Day calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, where 179 governments recognised that people’s rights, choices and well-being make the path to sustainable development. In line with this, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with the Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Ministry and HelpAge Sri Lanka convened the second event of a series of high-level policy dialogue on population ageing titled Ageing Without Limits. The dialogue aims to provide policy-level inputs to maximise the opportunity of population ageing with learning from other countries. The theme for this dialogue was Feminization of Ageing, which focused on the gender dimensions of population ageing, sexual and reproductive health and social protection issues.

In his opening remarks, Social Welfare and Primary Industries Minister Daya Gamage said, “Preparing for an ageing population is vital to the achievement of sustainable development goals. Sri Lanka should ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages including for older women.”

Highlighting issues related to gender inequality, Representative of the UNFPA Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken said, gender relations affect the entire lifecycle from birth to death, influencing access to resources and opportunities. For example, the impact of gender inequalities in education and employment opportunities increases through every stage of an individual’s life, hitting hardest in the old age. Women also spend more time in unpaid care work than men. As a result, older women are more likely than older men to be poor without savings or pension. Gender inequality, poverty and ageing thus manifest as the face of the feminisation of ageing.”

The panel comprised of former Chief of the Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and former Senior Advisor on Ageing at the Social and Family Development Ministry, Singapore, Thelma Kay, Regional Advisor for Population Ageing and Sustainable Development at the UNFPA Regional Office – Thailand, Rintaro Mori, and Senior Lecturer and Consultant Psychiatrist at the Peradeniya University, Dr. Pabasari Ginige.

The insightful discussions focused on how the feminisation of ageing must be addressed through a lifecycle approach to ensure that women’s rights and needs are looked into throughout their life and on the importance of achieving gender equality when addressing issues related to women and ageing. The role of women and their contribution to a silvery economy was discussed where the need for rights-based and evidence-based policies were highlighted as key to ensuring that women age with security, dignity and their full rights.

The panel was moderated by Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute Executive Director Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja and officials from the government, the international community, civil society, academia, private sector and the media engaged in the dialogue. The UNFPA will continue this series of dialogues to provide inputs to strengthen policies and support the development and implementation of a holistic system to ensure Sri Lanka is prepared to maximise the opportunity of population ageing in Sri Lanka.

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