Almost two-thirds of the estimated 32.4 million people around the world who are blind are women and girls. Women are more likely to be blind simply because of the roles they perform in society.
There are several reasons why more women than men are blind. Very simply, women often live longer than men making them more susceptible to cataract.
Women do the bulk of caring for children, making them much more likely to suffer from trachoma. Of the hundreds of thousands of people with advanced trachoma, 75% are women.
In many communities men control the family finances and their medical needs are prioritised.
Sadly, there can be a sense of shame associated with disability, including vision impairment. In Pakistan, for example, women are often afraid to be seen as a burden on the family and ashamed about being blind. So may not seek services.
And let’s not forget the women and girls who do not have eye problems themselves but are directly affected by blindness as they become primary carers for blind relatives. This responsibilities forces them to take time off school or to give up their education altogether.
In this cycle, poverty passes across generations because girls who are unable to attend school end up less educated, less skilled and poorer as adults.
When The Fred Hollows Foundation restores the sight of women, it transforms lives. The Foundation adopts a gender mainstreaming approach which helps us translate our mission into practice. This includes:
- Providing free or subsidized cataract surgery to the poorest of the poor which helps to overcome the barriers of lower income that prevent women and girls from receiving treatment
- Providing equal opportunity for training and scholarships to local women and men to be eye health doctors, nurses and community health care workers
- Supporting eye health clinics in remote regions to ensure that eye care services are offered to women and men who are too poor or incapable to travel
I am proud to say that The Fred Hollows Foundation is committed to closing the gender gap by empowering millions of women and girls and unlocking their potential across the world.
I encourage you to join us!
Founding Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation