International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity
It’s an important date for The Fred Hollows Foundation as we strongly advocate for women’s health and equality around the world. This International Women’s Day we want to honour some of the incredible women who have shaped The Foundation in some way.
Every story is unique, but one thing they have in common is the difference they’ve made to the lives of others. This year, International Women’s Day has the theme, #PressforProgress. The women on our list have certainly done that. We could have chosen dozens more amazing women who have played an important role in our organisation, but here are just a few of the amazing women who represent all of those who have contributed so much over the past 25 years.
1. Gabi Hollows | Founding Director, The Fred Hollows Foundation
A smile is just such an amazing thing. And to think that some of those people can now smile because they can see you...that's what powers up my batteries.
Gabi Hollows, one of Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures, has been a driving force behind The Fred Hollows Foundation since she helped establish it with her late husband Fred Hollows in 1992.
In the years since Fred died, Gabi has devoted herself to The Foundation. Being able to restore a person’s sight, bring joy and a chance at a better life is what drives her and The Foundation.
2. Dr Ngoc Vo | Head Paediatric Ophthalmologist, Da Nang Eye Hospital
Dr Ngoc accepted a job as an ophthalmologist but her dream was always to work with children. A series of coincidences mean that she’s now the head paediatric ophthalmologist at Da Nang Eye Hospital, one of the biggest eye hospitals in Vietnam.
An incredibly dedicated and compassionate health professional, nothing gives Dr Ngoc more pleasure than being able to restore sight to children.
My wish is to become more and more skilfull in the field so that I can heal lives thanks to eye surgery.
- Dr Ngoc Vo
3. Di Westaway | CEO & Founder Wild Women On Top | Coastrek
As the founder of Wild Women On Top, Di is an energiser specialising in natural exhilaration.
She has inspired nearly 20,000 people to get off the couch and into adventure and raised nearly $20 million for charity while leading an adventurous life she loves. Coastrek, the 30-60km team trekking challenge, gets people into nature for fun, fitness & friends - while restoring sight with The Fred Hollows Foundation.
What’s really important… is having a goal with a higher purpose. You need to know you’re doing something for someone else as well.
- Di Westaway
4. Gretel Killeen | Performer
Gretel Killeen is an Australian media personality, presenter, comedian, journalist and author. Killeen is a regular guest on shows such as The Project and has written more than 20 books, performed countless interviews and directed a documentary on AIDS orphans in Zambia. In 2015 she travelled to see The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work in Pakistan and meet young women who are being trained as eye specialists.
I saw doctors, surgeons and nurses working to return sight to the poor, the prematurely born and the traumatised... It’s unquestionably one ‘hard’ thing in life that we can help change.
- Gretel Killeen
5. Christine Anu | Singer/Actress | Specsavers/Hollows Frames Ambassador
Christine Anu is one of Australia’s most successful performers. Trained in dance at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), her illustrious career spans more than two decades including music, theatre, dance, film and television and public speaking.
Christine is a multi-award winning recording artist, including three ARIA awards. In 2015 Christine Anu joined forces with The Fred Hollows Foundation and Specsavers to raise funds and help save sight in Indigenous communities.
6. Dr Reeta Gurung | CEO of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology
Under Dr Reeta’s leadership, The Fred Hollows Foundation’s partner in Nepal, the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, has treated more than 4.8 million patients and performed more than 330,000 surgeries.
In her time with Tilganga more than 5 million intraocular lens have been produced at the Fred Hollows Lens Laboratory, and they have been exported to more than 50 countries worldwide.
After we do the cataract operation, sometimes the people can't say how they feel, but you can see it in their faces. They are really, really grateful.
- Dr Reeta Gurung
7. Pat Fiske | Director, Producer
Pat Fiske is an experienced director and producer and is recognised as a prominent member of Australia’s independent film making community.
Some of the films she has directed and/or produced are the award-winning documentaries: Rocking the Foundations, a history of the NSW Builders Laborers Federation and the Green Bans; Woolloomooloo, and For All the World to See, a portrait of Professor Fred Hollows.
In March 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Stanley Hawes Award for her outstanding contribution to the documentary industry in Australia.
8. Julie McCrossin | Radio/TV Personality | Coastrek Ambassador
Julie McCrossin is renowned across Australia for her warmth, humour, intelligence and commitment to social justice. After 20 years as a broadcaster with ABC Radio, ABC TV and Network 10, she is now a freelance journalist, facilitator, trainer and speaker.
Julie has been the Patron of Coastrek and has taken part in the event countless times, raising funds to end avoidable blindness.
I have no doubt it’s assisted my recovery; not just the exercise but the camaraderie, the beauty of the surroundings. It’s medicine. And of course you are walking to help the blind see.
- Julie McCrossin
9. Dr Rubina Gillani | Former Country Manager Pakistan
Dr Rubina Gillani has achieved great things for her people under extremely difficult circumstances. Dr Gillani could have taken a job as Minister for Health in Pakistan, but instead, in 1998, took on the job of tackling avoidable blindness with The Fred Hollows Foundation.
After 10 years of work with countless partners, The Foundation, under Dr Gillani’s leadership, saw the rate of avoidable blindness halved. In a country of 160 million (at the time) that was more than one million people who could see again.
10. Jane Ohuma | Country Manager Kenya
Jane Ohuma is the dynamic Country Manager of The Fred Hollows Foundation in Kenya. Jane was a Public Health Nurse graduate and has worked in humanitarian and development programs spanning across refugee and internally displaced persons’ camps in Kenya, Eastern Europe, Eritrea and Sudan.
Jane has been instrumental in designing and implementing comprehensive eye health programs that aim to eliminate blinding trachoma in high-prevalence counties in Kenya and other causes of avoidable blindness such as cataract and diabetic retinopathy.
11. Zareen Khair | Country Manager, Bangladesh
Dr Khair began working with The Fred Hollows Foundation in Bangladesh as Country Manager in 2008. She joined The Foundation with more than 30 years of experience in global health, covering adolescent reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, behaviour change communication, and research.
Dr Khair was awarded the L'OCCITANE Sight Award for Innovation for a new project aimed at reducing the gender gap in eye care in the rural areas of Bangladesh. The project has The Foundation working in partnership with women’s health and women’s rights organisations, up-skilling of maternal workers with eye care skills, to reach more rural women and children with primary eye care and information.
Women are more likely to be blind simply because they are female. Some of the barriers they face include physical distance, lack of financial means and the general lack of awareness about eye care. We need to find low-cost local solutions that address these barriers.
- Zareen Khair
12. Jilpia Jones | Registered Nurse | Member of the National Trachoma Program
Jilpia is a Walmadjari Woman who was removed from her mother at the age of 5. Jilpia graduated in General Nursing, Midwifery and Ophthalmology. With her nursing work she helped with other activists to establish the first Community Control Medical Service in Sydney.
Later, with her experience working with the late Professor Fred Hollows on the National Trachoma Eye Health Program around Australia, Jilpia obtained a Churchill Trust Scholarship to study and work at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.
I got the job at the AMS (Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern) and so began a strong and committed relationship towards the provision of community-controlled health care to my people. Fred Hollows taught me to believe in myself and to be equal among all people, even if you walked where others feared to tread.
- Jilpia Jones
13. Rose Murray | Part of the National Trachoma Program
Rose Murray is a Nyangumarta woman and was a field worker on original National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, working with Fred, Gabi and several specialist teams travelling around Australia. After finishing school Rose joined the public service.
While working for a government agency in Melbourne she came across an advertisement for staff for the trachoma program – an adventure that changed her life and the lives of thousands of Aboriginal people who received eye care.
We grew as people, we grew as social justice warriors, we grew as health advocates. We put glasses on people who wanted to make boomerangs and sew skirts. We arranged operations for people in need. We did the background for massive treatment of trachoma. We had Aboriginal people in front-line jobs. That was pretty rare back in the day.
- Rose Murray
14. Divinah Kisorio | Community Health Worker, Kenya
Community health worker, Divinah Kisorio, has screened many children in Kenya and directed them to The Fred Hollows Foundation services to restore their sight. Her main tool is an Arclight which she uses to screen children in remote villages in Kenya.
As long as there is sun, it [the arclight] will work wherever I go.
- Divinah Kisorio
15. Susie O’Neill OAM | Olympic Gold Medallist, Fred Hollows Foundation Ambassador
Susie O'Neill is one of Australia's most successful swimmers. She earned the nickname "Madame Butterfly" and holds the record for the most Olympic medals that any Australian woman has won.
She won eight Olympic Games medals during her swimming career. O'Neill is a long-term ambassador for The Fred Hollows Foundation. In 1997, O'Neill was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to sport. In 2002, she was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and in 2012 she was elevated to become Sport Australia's 34th Legend of Australian Sport.
16. Helen Evans | Board Member
Helen has been a Director on The Foundation Board since 2015 and is an expert in public health and development and social policy with a special focus on infectious diseases. She has been involved in the work of a range of key national and international health and development organisations.
Based in Geneva from 2005 until her retirement in 2014, Helen worked as Deputy CEO at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and then at Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. She was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2017.
17. Joy Savage | Deputy Chair Board
Joy joined The Fred Hollows Foundation Board in 2013. An Aboriginal woman from far North Queensland, Joy has extensive public sector and non-government experience.
She is currently a senior executive in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In her most immediate past role as CEO of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, Joy had responsibility for a national network of short-term accommodation facilities and in-residence services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
18. Betty Hounslow | Former Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Betty joined The Fred Hollows Foundation in 2003 in the position of General Manager (Operations) and became Deputy Chief Executive in early 2005. Betty has a long-standing commitment to social and economic justice, having worked for almost 30 years in various community-based advocacy and service delivery organisations.
Betty's roles at The Foundation saw her involved across all areas of the organisation - from the development of international and Australian programs, to fundraising and education activities, advocacy initiatives, finance and administration.
19. Jaki Adams-Barton | Regional Associate Director Australasia
Jaki Adams-Barton is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and worked for more than 20 years in the government sector, both in Queensland and the Northern Territory, with experience in grant administration, policy development, program implementation, research and analysis, and strategic partnerships.
She is the Chair of Vision 2020 Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee and is committed to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Inspired by these women? Read even more inspirational stories here.