Closing the gender blindness gap for women and girls | Orbis
Female cataracts patient, Anwara, stands outside her home in Bangladesh

Closing the gender blindness gap for women and girls

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this month, Orbis is working to close the gender blindness gap – making healthy sight a reality for women and girls worldwide.

With our network of partners, trained eye health providers and dedicated supporters, we're breaking down the barriers to access that many women face and helping to deliver sight-saving care through Women-Led Green Vision Centers.

Throughout the world, women and girls experience avoidable blindness and vision loss at a higher rate than men and boys. More than 55% of all people with vision loss are women and girls. In addition to the obstacles they already face in accessing quality eye care, many women and girls encounter additional gender-specific barriers as well.

Nurun Nahar Aktar leads training for fellow front-line eye health workers at a Women-led Green Vision Center in Bangladesh

Women-Led Green Vision Centers are staffed with trained women eye health professionals.

For some women and girls, care is inaccessible due to limited financial resources. Families spend their money on other priorities instead of funding vision care for women and girls. Finding time can also become difficult due to the extra burden of household, childcare, and other responsibilities that some women carry.

In some regions of the world, women have fewer options to travel than men and are concerned about their safety when traveling. It can be challenging for many women and girls to simply get to their eye care appointments, especially when local transportation is limited and eye health offices are difficult to reach.

Globally, only 25-30% of ophthalmologists are women and very few provide care in low- and middle-income countries around the world. This makes access to care even more challenging and underscores the need for more women eye care professionals.

Orbis is committed to breaking down these gender-specific barriers and improving access to quality sight-saving care for women and girls across the globe.

We work to ensure women have equitable access to ophthalmic training around the world through in-person training projects on board the Flying Eye Hospital and in local hospitals. Training projects such as our recent Flying Eye Hospital project in Doha, which was specifically aimed at women living in conflict zones. A wealth of virtual programs available on our Cybersight telemedicine platform also help promote gender equity through flexible, home learning.

Women-Led Green Vision Centers

To further ramp up access to eye care for women and girls, Orbis is taking an innovative approach to help expand care through Women-Led Green Vision Centers.

These eye care centers not only improve the quality of vision care for communities that have traditionally lacked access, but they are designed to operate sustainably. Since they're led by women, the centers can address some of the gender-specific barriers to access that women and girls face.

Women are more likely to seek the care they need when it is provided by another woman. As well, those who lack the funds to cover treatment can receive low-cost, or even no-cost, care. And since the centers are community-based, access is available to local women and girls who are unable to travel far distances on their own.

Many centers are located in regions with frequent power outages, but each Women-Led Green Vision Center runs on solar power. This is not only environmentally friendly but it helps to ensure that eye care is consistently available despite unreliable power.

An eye health professional screens 14-year-old school student Eti at Shahrasti Women-led Green Vision Center, Bangladesh

Eti, a young girl from Chandpur District in Bangladesh, has her eyes examined at Shahrasti Vision Center.

In Chandpur District in Bangladesh, Orbis helps to operate the Shahrasti Vision Center, one of four Women-Led Green Vision Centers in the country. In a district where more than half of the population lives in poverty and an alarming 15% are struggling with vision loss, the center provides hope to many girls and women in need of eye care, including Anwara.

Anwara is a 55-year-old housewife from a small village near the vision center. Before visiting the Shahrasti Vision Center, Anwara had been suffering from vision problems for quite some time, but she couldn't afford to see a properly trained eye health professional. As a result, Anwara was unaware that she had cataracts. She attempted many traditional remedies to fix her vision problems and even tried a medication that ultimately aggravated her condition, causing her increased pain and discomfort.

But soon, she heard about the eye care services offered at the Shahrasti Vision Center and made an appointment to have her eyes checked. Knowing that she would receive care from a woman, Anwara felt very comfortable visiting the centre and was hopeful she could get the treatment she needed.

Female patient Anwara has her eyes screened at Shahrasti Women-led Green Vision Center in Bangladesh

Anwara has her eyes screened by the staff at the Shahrasti Vision Center.

She recalls, “The doctor who tested my eyes was a woman. So, I didn’t feel shy and was able to express myself to the fullest. ...I was also able to speak with a well-known doctor in Chandpur via a digital platform at the vision center.” 

After a thorough examination at the center, Anwara was properly diagnosed with a cataract in her left eye and was scheduled to receive surgery to correct her vision.

Cataracts patient Anwara sits with a female eye health professional at Shahrasti Women-led Green Vision Center, Bangladesh

Shahrasti Vision Center is women-led, giving extra comfort to female patients when discussing their eye problems.

The surgery was successful and Anwara was filled with delight thanks to the hard work of the eye health workers at the Shahrasti Vision Centre.


Cataract patient, Bangladesh

After the oper­a­tion, a test was con­duct­ed and the doc­tors con­firmed that my eyes were func­tion­ing prop­er­ly. Then they removed the eye patch, and I could see the world as nor­mal for the first time in sev­er­al months. I could wit­ness the beau­ty of nature again and my heart filled with joy. After my left eye had devel­oped a cataract, I for­got all about this joy and the beau­ty nature boasts.”
Anwara smiling outside her home in Bangladesh following a successful cataracts operation at an Orbis partner facility

Anwara received quality eye care through an Orbis-supported Women-Led Green Vision Center.

Before the establishment of Shahrasti Vision Center, women had to travel to Chandpur Hospital, which became an obstacle to seeking care. But with a Women-Led Green Vision Center in their community, local women and girls can now easily get treatment from women eye health professionals.

After facing several barriers to accessing the eye care she needed, Anwara shares this message with other women in her community, I motivate them to come to the vision centre for eye care services from qualified professionals.”

As Orbis continues our efforts to close the gender blindness gap, you can help support our Women-Led Green Vision Centers and provide quality eye care to women and girls, allowing them to reach their full potential. Make a generous sight-saving gift for women and girls today!

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