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Gender equity in global eye care

Sydney, Australia, 8 March 2019: Gender equity is not solely a women’s issue as it concerns and needs engagement from men as well as women. Equity between women and men is seen both as a human rights issue and as a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable people-centred development. The premise considers that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men.

•    60% of the world’s chronically hungry are women and girls1
•    Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, more than two-thirds of them are women and girls2
•    Two-thirds of all children denied school are girls, and 75 per cent of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women3
•    Women hold only 21 per cent of the world’s parliamentary seats, and only 8 percent of the world’s cabinet ministers are women4
•    Only 46 countries have met the UN target of 30 percent female decision-makers5

What does gender equity mean in relation to eye care?

Gender equity, in the eye care context, is about identifying and overcoming the entrenched barriers that prevent women accessing eye health services. Women bear approximately two-thirds of the global burden of blindness in the world6 80% of which is preventable or treatable.7 This is a multi-faceted problem, and a result of cultural practices rather than physiology, which can range widely in different locations.

These practices may include:
•    Limited ability to venture to public places where health services are available;
•    Reduced priority in family financial decisions;
•    Low levels of education and minimal knowledge of eye health;
•    Restricted options due to remoteness and lack of transport; and
•    Negative feelings associated with wearing glasses.

Introducing gender-based innovations into our program strategy has provided significant outcomes at the local level, and we know directly targeting the marginalised members of the communities in which we work, is the key to improving eye health outcomes for women.

What local and global outcomes can be achieved?

Our programs are tackling this disparity through several initiatives or approaches, including:
•    Conducting training programs and vision screening programs that specifically target women;
•    Raising awareness at national, regional and community levels about inequalities in eye care;
•    Providing other forms of support for women to follow a career in eye care.
Supporting gender-based innovations through our programs has provided identifiable outcomes at the local level. Brien Holden Vision Institute believe increasing these initiatives in a scalable approach, directly targeting marginalised members of communities, is the key to improving global eye health outcomes for women.

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  6. Abou-Gareeb I, Lewallen S, Bassett K, Courtright P. Gender and blindness: a meta-analysis of population-based prevalence surveys. Ophthalmic epidemiology 2001; 8(1): 39-56.
  7. World Health Organization, Visual Impairment and Blindness, Fact Sheet No 282; accessed on 11 October 2016 at: