Gabi Hollows has used International Women’s Day to honour three women who are continuing Fred’s dream of bringing sight to the blind and improving health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Speaking at a breakfast function hosted by the Qantas Foundation, Gabi first paid homage to The Foundation’s country manager for Pakistan, Dr Rubina Gillani, for being a woman who has achieved great things for her people under extremely difficult circumstances.
“[Dr Gillani] could have taken the job of Minister for Health but instead, in 1998, took on the job of tackling avoidable blindness with The Fred Hollows Foundation,” Gabi said.
“Today after 10 years of work by Dr Gillani and our partners the rate of avoidable blindness is down to 0.9 per cent of population from 1.79 per cent. In a country of 160 million, that’s more than one million people who can see again.”
Gabi went on to say that this achievement had only been achieved through Dr Gillani’s ability to be a negotiator, mentor, architect, fighter and debater.
Another woman Gabi honoured was The Foundation’s Medical Director for East Africa, Dr Wanjiku Mathenge.
“It is not easy being a female doctor in Kenya,” Gabi said.
“Ciku tells us that many of the patients refuse to believe that she is the head doctor. They see her and then walk back out the door to check with the receptionist.”
“But Ciku has become one of the best in her field and is driven by seeing the change she can personally have on someone else’s life.”
Finally, Gabi paid tribute to one of her great personal friends, Jilpia Jones. Gabi first go to know Jilpia on the National Trachoma and eye Health Program in the 1970s.
“We often camped under the stars on the side of the road, recapping our days work whilst sitting around the camp fire,” Gabi said.
“Jilpia helped awaken in me, and in those who knew her, a deeper understanding of our First Australians.”
Gabi said that it’s been a great pleasure to continue Fred’s work for the past seventeen years and noted the place that women have had in realising so many achievements.
“I’m proud to say, on this special day, that many of the people continuing to bring sight to the poor are women. They are women who’ve achieved great, though largely unheralded things.”