Restoring sight to women and girls 

More than 20 million women in the world are blind and a further 120 million women are visually impaired.

There is a gender gap present in almost every aspect of women's lives. Access to education, political representation, employment opportunities, wage disparity and even physical safety are areas where women across the world are frequently at a disadvantage.

What is less commonly known is the gender gap that exists when it comes to sight.

At least 55 per cent of the world’s blind are women and most live in low and middle income countries. Women are also 1.3 times more likely to be blind or vision impaired than men, and most significantly, four out of five of them don’t need to be blind, as their eye conditions can be easily prevented or treated.

That means there are more women who suffer from avoidable blindness because of cataracttrachoma and other eye diseases.

Why is blindness a gender issue?
Why is blindness a gender issue?

In every region of the world, women are more likely to be blind than men.

The reasons for this are varied.

In many families, the health of women is simply not prioritised, particularly if it's a condition that’s not life threatening.  For some women, it can be harder to travel for treatment because of family responsibilities. For others, a lack of education means they aren't even aware they can get help. 

In some communities there is a sense of shame surrounding any type of 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.

Women more frequently suffer from trachoma than men. In fact, 75 per cent of all people diagnosed with advanced trachoma are women. Trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world and it's mostly young children who carry the bug. Because women are more likely to stay at home to care for the children, they are more likely than men to be repeatedly infected.

Even women and girls who do not have eye problems themselves can be disproportionally affected by blindness as they are the ones who most often have to care for blind relatives.  Girls often have to leave school completely to care for their adult relatives who have gone blind. 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.

We believe in equal right to sight
We believe in equal right to sight

The Fred Hollows Foundation is committed to closing the gender gap when it comes to avoidable blindness and unlocking the potential of millions of women and girls.

We know vision impairment and blindness have far-reaching implications, not just for the women affected, but also for their families and for progress towards many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. When we restore sight to women, we not only improve their lives, we deliver immediate economic benefits, allowing them to re-enter school or the workforce.

That is why The Foundation is placing women and girls firmly at the centre of our programming, service delivery, partnerships and global advocacy work.

Some of the strategies we use to reduce blindness among women and girls include:

1. Focused Programming 
We are providing eye health services in garment factories in Bangladesh and Vietnam, and for female agriculture and cottage industry workers in Pakistan. These targeted projects are bringing quality eye care to tens of thousands of women, allowing them to continue working and supporting their families and communities.

2. Training 
We are training women to become eye doctors, health workers and eye health professionals. One of the best long term ways to encourage women to visit hospitals and eye clinics is for there to be more female faces working in the health system.

3. Access 
We are ensuring more women are having the eye surgeries they so desperately need by providing free transport to eye health facilities to reduce geographical barriers and out-of-pocket expenses.

4. Outreach
Our community based outreach services are reaching out to women in remote and rural villages where eye disease remains largely undiagnosed and untreated.

5. Mothers 
We are integrating eye health services in maternal and reproductive health facilities to give pregnant women access to eye health screening that is not provided routinely.

What is She Sees?
What is She Sees?

Fewer blind women in the world is a win not just for those women, but it’s a win for all of us and is a major step in the fight against avoidable blindness.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is launching a new initiative to become a leader in affordable, accessible eye care for women and girls. We want to empower women with sight and end gendered discrimination in eye health. 

We call this, She Sees. She Sees is The Foundation’s public commitment to address gender disparity in blindness as a key global health issue.

Women are 1.3 times more likely to be blind than men. She Sees wants to narrow that gap. 

Fred Hollows believed that everyone’s sight was worth saving. His commitment to ending avoidable blindness continues today through the work of The Foundation, by bringing affordable eye care to those who need it most.

She Sees carries on Fred’s legacy to ensure that every woman has equal access to high-quality and affordable eye care.

Want to learn more? Read the 'Restoring Women's Sight' Report into factors affecting women and blindness.