The two national workshops were part of the project entitled “Social Protection - Gender Responsive Health and Social Security for the Elderly”, which is supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea. They followed a regional workshop held in September 2006 in Seoul, Korea, which first raised the issue of the need for gender responsive health and social protection policies.
The purpose of the national workshops was to sensitize policymakers to the phenomena of the feminization of ageing in the region and its specific policy implications and conditions in Viet Nam and Mongolia. Policymakers and planners from various ministries and other important stakeholder organizations were made aware of the urgency of providing gender responsive health-care and social security to the elderly, particularly women. Discussions during the workshops included a review of pension schemes, health-care services and health infrastructure and how these must be directed to cover the needs of women who are marginalized in most schemes and services.
Each workshop also focused on the issue of financing gender responsive health policies and services and discussed sources for the allocation of resources to implement gender responsive policies and programmes. The workshops were timely for Viet Nam and Mongolia, as the feminization of ageing is only just beginning to be understood. An overview by ESCAP of policy options indicated that countries in the Asian and Pacific region are only recently beginning to realize the importance of being prepared for the fact that the majority of the elderly (over 60% by 2025 and more than that by 2050) will be women. Policymakers were made aware that most countries did not have adequate policies on ageing. Even amongst the countries that had put in place such policies and programmes, most of these were gender neutral in nature and hence, often did not incorporate the needs of elderly women. The national workshops raised the issue and presented guidelines that would assist policymakers in developing gender responsive health-care policies and programmes on ageing.
Discussions during the workshops highlighted the fact that “elderly women” are not a homogenous group, and that policymakers need to consider the most vulnerable women - those living in rural areas, working in the informal sector with fewer or no opportunities for social protection, with disabilities or HIV/AIDS, from ethnic minority groups, and widows - in formulating national policy on ageing. The workshops also emphasized the need to undertake preventive measures to stop cultural practices harmful to elderly women, such as violence, abuse and exploitation. The important role of private sector and non-governmental organizations in providing social security and health-care for elderly women was also explored during the workshops.