Elderly woman with eye patch in Ethiopia

Through the eyes

of women & girls

Did you know there is a gender gap in blindness? 55% of people who are visually impaired are women. Below, we explore the reasons behind this injustice and profile some of the women who are doing something about it. After all, a brighter future for women is a brighter future for the planet.

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

These barriers might include a lack of education, limited decision-making power and restricted access to financial resources. In other words, a woman may not be aware that treatment is available for her poor vision or may not be able to travel or pay for treatment.

Two thirds of children who are blind are girls.

Gender inequity may also mean that the healthcare needs of men are prioritized over women. In communities where men are traditionally the breadwinners and women manage domestic tasks, men's needs will often be seen to be more important.

Studies have demonstrated lower rates of cataract surgery for women despite women being more affected by the condition globally.

Zambian patient Gladys, who has cataracts

Cataract surgery rates are lower for women despite more being affected by the condition

Another reason often cited for the disparity in eye health between men and women is that women, on the whole, have a longer life expectancy. This means they are more likely to develop age-related diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration.

However, this is just part of the picture – especially as two thirds of children who are blind are girls.

Women and blindness: the challenges

Women more at risk of blinding trachoma

Traditional gender roles also put women more at risk of infectious eye diseases. Take trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness which results in a blinding condition called trachomatous trichiasis, where the eye lashes rub painfully against the eye. Women make up 70% of people affected by this painful and blinding disease, because they are more exposed to children who are the main carriers of the infection.

70% of people affected by blinding trachoma are women

Women and girls carry the burden of care giving for relatives with vision loss

Worldwide, a disproportionately heavy workload of household responsibilities and care for relatives with visual impairment is often imposed on women and girls. This may then consequently restrict opportunities to access school, employment and income while simultaneously increasing the risk of contracting a blinding disease at home.

The burden of care giving restricts opportunities & exposes women to a greater risk of infectious eye diseases

Women who are blind carry a double burden of discrimination

Globally, disabled women, also experience a double burden of discrimination: because of their disability and because of their gender. This can lead to social exclusion and abuse, which can impact whether someone is able to access health services and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

What we're doing

Here are few of the gender-focused eye care projects helping empower women and tackle this injustice

Our commitment to gender

Recent global data on blindness trends predicts that blindness and visual impairment could triple in the next 30 years, unless we do something about it. The heart-breaking fact is that the most vulnerable segments of our population- women and children - will be disproportionately affected by crisis.

We have recently launched a new three-year Global Strategic Plan where we have made it a priority to tackle this injustice head on. Much of our past work has helped alleviate the burden of blindness for women and girls, but we know we need to go further if we are to seriously address this imbalance.

Our Global Strategic Plan has a specific focus on gender

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

This is why we are designing specific programs, like the Queen Mother's in Ghana and the Vision Centers in Bangladesh, that will help women access the eye care they deserve.