Closing the gender blindness gap for women and girls

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this month, Orbis is working to close the gender blindness gap – making healthy sight a reality for women and girls worldwide.

With our network of partners, trained eye health providers, and dedicated supporters, we are breaking down the barriers to access that many women face and helping to deliver sight-saving care through Women-Led Green Vision Centers.

Throughout the world, women and girls experience avoidable blindness and vision loss at a higher rate than men and boys. More than 55% of all people with vision loss are women and girls. And in addition to the obstacles they face to achieve equitable access to quality eye care, many women and girls encounter gender-specific barriers to attain healthy sight.

Women-Led Green Vision Centers are staffed with trained women eye health professionals

For some women and girls, care is inaccessible due to limited financial resources. Families spend their money on other priorities instead of funding vision care for women and girls. Finding time can also become difficult due to the extra burden of household, childcare, and other responsibilities that some women carry.

In some regions of the world, women have fewer options to travel than men and are concerned about their safety when traveling. It can be challenging for many women and girls to simply get to their eye care appointments, especially when local transportation is limited, and eye health offices are difficult to reach.

Globally, only 25-30% of ophthalmologists are women and very few provide care in low- and middle-income countries around the world. This makes access to care even more challenging and underscores the need for more female eye care professionals.

Orbis is committed to breaking down these gender-specific barriers and improving access to quality sight-saving care for women and girls across the globe.

We work to ensure women and girls have equitable access to ophthalmic training around the world through in-person training projects on board the Flying Eye Hospital and in local hospitals. Training projects such as our recent Flying Eye Hospital project in Dubai, which was specifically aimed women in conflict zones. Our virtual programs offered on Cybersight, our online learning tool, also promote gender equity through flexible, home learning.

Women-Led Green Vision Centers

And to further ramp up access to eye care for women and girls, Orbis is taking an innovative approach to help expand care through Women-Led Green Vision Centers.

These eye care centers not only improve the quality of vision care for communities that have traditionally lacked access, but they are designed to operate sustainably. By being led by women, the centers can address some of the gender-specific barriers to access that women and girls face.

Women are more likely to seek the care they need when it is administered by another woman. Plus, those who lack the funds to cover treatment can receive low-cost, or even no-cost, care. And since the centers are community-based, access is available to local women and girls who are unable to travel far distances on their own.

Many centers are located in regions with frequent power outages, but each Women-Led Green Vision Center runs on solar power. This is not only environmentally friendly but it helps to ensure that eye care is consistently available to women and girls when they need it.

A young girl has her eyes examined at Shahrasti Green Vision Center

In Chandpur District in Bangladesh, Orbis helps to operate the Shahrasti vision center, one of four Women-Led Green Vision Centers in the country. In this district, where more than half of the population is living in poverty and an alarming 15% are struggling with vision loss, the center provides hope to many girls and women in the community in need of eye care, including Anwara, a 55-year-old housewife from a small village near the center.

For several months prior to visiting Shahrasti vision center, Anwara had been suffering from vision problems. Unable to afford the costs to see a qualified doctor, she was unaware that she had cataracts and sought relief from a medication that ultimately aggravated her condition, causing her increased pain and discomfort.

But soon she heard about the eye care services offered at Shahrasti vision center and made an appointment to have her eyes screened. With the knowledge that the center is led by women eye care professionals, Anwara was able to access the care she needed.

Anwara has her eyes screened by the staff at the Shahrasti Vision Center

She recalls, “The doctor who tested my eyes was a woman. So, I didn’t feel shy and was able to express myself to the fullest. ... I was also able to speak with a well-known doctor in Chandpur via a digital platform at the vision center.” 

After a thorough examination by doctors at the center, Anwara was properly diagnosed with cataracts in her left eye and was scheduled to receive surgery to correct her vision.

Shahrasti Vision Center is women-led, giving extra comfort to female patients when discussing eye care

The surgery was successful and Anwara was filled with delight thanks to the hard work of the health workers at Shahrasti… and her restored sight!



After the oper­a­tion, a test was con­duct­ed and the doc­tors con­firmed that my eyes were func­tion­ing prop­er­ly. Then they removed the eye patch, and I could see the world as nor­mal for the first time in sev­er­al months. I could wit­ness the beau­ty of nature again and my heart filled with joy. After my left eye had devel­oped cataract, I for­got all about this joy and the beau­ty nature boasts.”

Anwara received quality eye care through an Orbis-led Green Vision Center

Before the establishment of Shahrasti vision center, women had to travel to Chandpur Hospital, which became an obstacle to seeking care. But with a Women-Led Green Vision Center in their community, local women and girls can now get treatment from women eye health professionals with greater ease and comfortability.

After facing several barriers to accessing the eye care she needed, Anwara shares this message with other women in her community, I motivate them to come to the vision centre for eye care services from qualified professionals.”

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