Blindness discriminates. Among the 36 million people who are blind worldwide, 55% are women. Women are more likely to be blind by men due to a series of reasons
. The Fred Hollows Foundation is determined to close the gender gap and ensure women have better access to services. Here is some of our work:
1. Doorstep diagnosis for women
Some of the key barriers, especially for rural women, from getting eye care include physical distance from services and a lack of financial means to travel for appointments. There is also a general lack of awareness about eye health. Locally-based solutions help to ease the problem.
In Pakistan, our trained health workers visit dozens of families, knocking on their doors and helping women who are often unable to leave their homes without being escorted by a male relative. 38-year-old Fatima is one of them. She has been trained by The Fred Hollows Foundation in basic eye care and is able to diagnose cataract, squint and glaucoma among other eye disease.
2. Training the next generation of female doctors
I have been working as a Lady Health Worker for the last 18 years and I really enjoy being able to help people, especially vulnerable women and children. I feel a sense of satisfaction in serving my community.
Not all women are comfortable being treated by male health workers. One of the key pieces of work of The Foundation is to train more female doctors and health workers to meet the needs of female patients.
Tirfe Emishaw is one of the new trachoma trichiasis surgeons trained by The Foundation in Ethiopia. Before her training, 26-year-old Tirfe worked as a public health officer at a health centre. It wasn't until after her training that she realised just how badly trachoma had been affecting her community, and women are most often affected.
It has also inspired her to chase a bigger dream to become an ophthalmologist. She is determined to set more women free from the agony of trachoma and create a real difference in her community.
3. Upgrading services in maternal and child health clinic
Thanks to the training, I am determined to grow into an eye doctor.
- Tirfe Emishaw
The Fred Hollows Foundation in Bangladesh has ignited a revolutionary approach in eye health, with the first cataract surgery performed in the history of Bangladesh in a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) clinic. This project, in association with our local partner, aims to restore vision to empower rural and marginalized women and children in Bangladesh. With 55% of blind people being women and with them being four times more likely to need surgery than men, it’s important for us to integrate eye health into maternal and child services.
4. Building housing for trainees
Training female health workers allows women with eye diseases to seek help more easily. The Foundation has supported the construction of the “Fred Hollows Hostel” to house 250 female ophthalmic students mostly from remote areas of Pakistan.
These students, who are mainly women, used to live in rented off-campus accommodation which was unsafe, a financial burden and made travel to and from class difficult. The new on-campus hostel has provided them with safe and affordable accommodation and is having a positive impact on their study outcomes.
The move also supports women particularly those from remote areas to receive a higher education and build a career in ophthalmology.
5. Supporting female factory workers
A pilot project setting up visual detection corners within 10 garment factories in Bangladesh has been hailed a success. Eye charts were set up for workers to test their own vision and orientation and training was given to managers and supervisors to refer workers with vision problems for treatment.
Eye screening camps were also organised in the factories, and 350 pairs of glasses were provided to garment workers to correct refractive error.
Women make up the majority of the workforce in these factories and are bread winners in their families. Without good eye sight, the finances of these families would also be affected.