Fred Hollows stood for equality. In fact, he once said: ‘inequity diminishes us all.’ 

Fred believed everyone, no matter who they are, should have access to quality eye care. International Women’s Day is a timely reminder to continue to invest in women and accelerate their progress, just as Fred wanted for everyone affected by vision loss.

Blindness is a gendered issue: 

  • 1.1 billion people worldwide live with some form of vision loss because they don’t have access to basic eye care services and 55% of these are women or girls. 

  • 90% of women with blindness live in poverty. 

  • Globally, women are 55% more likely to be blind or vision impaired than men. 

We want to see a world in which all people have access to high quality, affordable eye health care, and because we know that women and girls are disproportionately affected, access is crucial. 

Vision impairment and blindness have far-reaching implications, not just for the women and girls affected, but also for their families and communities: 


Blindness and vision impairment can hinder access to education and work opportunities, particularly for women. Vision loss can lead to difficulties in reading, writing, studying, and performing tasks effectively. When girls are blind or significantly vision impaired, they are often left out of accessing education and girls often act as caregivers for adults with vision impairment, impacting their ability to gain an education. Lower levels of literacy also mean women may not understand their condition. 


Good eye health is essential for economic empowerment, as it enables women to engage in work and business. Women affected by blindness or vision loss may face challenges in securing employment or starting a business, perpetuating gender inequity in economic participation and financial independence for their family or community. 


Unfortunately, women and girls often face significant cultural barriers and gender discrimination, which means they are less likely to receive services or treatment with the same frequency as men. In some cultures, the health of men and boys is prioritised over women’s health. Women also occupy most domestic or unpaid care roles and women with blindness are often locked out of paid employment, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and disadvantage for women with vision-related disability. 


Visual impairment can lead to social exclusion and limited participation in community activities for both men and women. However, due to existing gender norms and stereotypes, women with visual impairments may face heightened social stigma and discrimination, further marginalising them from community engagement. Promoting gender equity in eye health helps address these barriers and fosters social inclusion for all. 


Investing in improving women’s health not only improves women’s quality of life but also enables them to participate more actively in the workforce and make a living. Women continue to shoulder the burden of caregiving for their loved ones, leaving them bound by responsibility to their family members. With your support, The Fred Hollows Foundation is helping women join the eye health workforce as surgeons, nurses, clinic support staff. This means women will be able to work, study, be financially independent, and have a higher quality of life.