International Women's Day

Each year on March 8, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day – an opportunity to reflect on progress towards gender equality and what we can do to create a more fair and equitable world. At Orbis, we know that blindness is a gender issue and are committed to alleviating unequal access to eye care.

Globally, 1.1 billion people live with vision loss, including blindness. Women and girls make up 55% of these people – that’s 112 million more women than men.

Through our long-term country programs, Flying Eye Hospital projects and online Cybersight training and mentoring we are improving the quality of eye care available to women and girls around the world.

112 million more women than men are living with vision loss, including blindness.

Why Is Blindness a Gender Issue?

In many parts of the world gender inequality means women face additional barriers to accessing eye care that men don't:

  • Limited financial resources and time: Finances are often directed first toward other priorities, forcing women and girls to go without. Women are burdened with household and childcare responsibilities, which leaves them with little time to tend to their own needs.
  • Inability to travel and safety concerns: Women often have fewer options for travel than men and are more vulnerable to unsafe situations away from home. Older women may require assistance, which poor families cannot provide.
  • A lack of women eye health providers: For cultural or other reasons, women might not seek care from a male practitioner.
    • Globally, women represent only 25-30% of ophthalmologists and 35-45% of professionals-in-training, few of whom are in low- and middle-income countries.

International Women's Day 2024

A lack of women eye health care providers is a major barrier to access as women may be reluctant to visit male practitioners due to cultural or other reasons.  Globally, women represent only 25-30% of ophthalmologists and 25-45% of professionals-in-training.

In a recent survey of Cybersight users, 30% of women respondents said that they experience challenges that men do not in accessing eye healthcare training.

Orbis Volunteer Faculty, Dr. Mary O'Hara, shares her skills with female peers in Mongolia in 2018

Improving Access to Training for Women

  • Cybersight, our online telemedicine and e-learning tool, allows women to access training at a time and location that’s convenient for them. Cybersight helps women eye care professionals to overcome obstacles by providing affordable, convenient ways to advance their career while continuing to fulfil their multiple roles, which often include caregiving responsibilities.

  • In 2021, we worked with Women In Ophthalmology and Seva Foundation to create “Women Leaders in Eye Health” (WLEH), a global virtual space and webinar series for women eye professionals to come together and strengthen their leadership. The WLEH program continues to pick up pace with the introduction of Gender Champions in partner hospitals and the implementation of program funding and leadership structure. More news on this exciting program to follow soon.

  • We are hiring a Gender Equality & Social Inclusion Advisor to help advance the Women Leaders in Eye Health Program and advance gender equality in all eye health programs.

  • We are running a “sandwich” fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology that is specifically designed to be more flexible to meet the needs of caregivers. “Sandwich” refers to how the one-year program is delivered in a “blended” fashion, with portions conducted online via Cybersight taking place before and after in-person training. Under the stewardship of long-term partner Dr. Suma Ganesh, three women took part in 2023.

These exciting offerings are only the beginning, and we know there is so much more to do to achieve gender equity in eye health.

Help women ophthalmologists overcome additional barriers to eye care training and help more women and girls access quality eye care

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International Women's Day 2023

Women-led Green Vision Centers are an innovative approach that not only improves the quality of eye health in communities that have traditionally lacked access to care but also operates with sustainability at the forefront.

By being women-led, the centers address a variety of traditional barriers for women and girls. Orbis trains women-led management teams to run the centers. This is important because many women are more likely to seek eye care for themselves and their children when it is administered by other women. It also empowers women in the community through job creation and increasing their financial independence.

The centers also directly address additional barriers to care that women face such as lack of finances, free time, or safety concerns. The Women-led Green Vision Centers are subsidized for those unable to afford care, ensuring women and girls without access to financial resources can still receive care for free or at a reduced cost. As these vision centers are community-based, it means women unable to travel long distances on their own (due to safety concerns or having limited free time due to household, childcare, or other responsibilities) are still able to access care.

International Women's Day 2022

To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we’re sharing some incredible stories of Orbis volunteers and patients. Click below to learn about how your contributions helped these women and girls achieve their full potential.

See Her Potential

In this episode of our video podcast, SIGHTLINES, guest experts Julia Anderson (the CEO of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health) and Dr. Suzannah Bellis (a Clinical Research Fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital) explore the gender disparity in eye health, and discuss how women will play a critical role in the fight against global blindness as we forge ahead in a very different health landscape.

SIGHTLINES Episode 6: Women Changing the World

Access to eye care can help a girl see the blackboard in school and thrive in her education, helping to break cycles of poverty. It can help a woman succeed in her career and grow her ability to support herself and her family, opening doors to a brighter future.

We know that by empowering women to access eye care, it will not only help address gender inequalities, but will also have a broader impact on their communities, as well as wider economies.

You can help more women access the eye care they deserve this International Women's Day by donating below.

Help unlock women and girls potential

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