Misha Mahjabeen Country Director, VisionSpring Bangladesh VisionSpring
We were proud to be able to celebrate World Sight Day and this year’s theme Love Your Eyes at Work. The connection of clear vision to the workplace is in VisionSpring’s organisational DNA.
This World Sight Day we celebrated a major milestone in one of our livelihoods initiatives, the Clear Vision Workplace (CVW) program. CVW brings together VisionSpring and USAID with global businesses including Levi Strauss, the VF Corporation, Deckers Brands, Warby Parker and more than 150 apparel and footwear manufacturers in Bangladesh, Vietnam and India.
Over the past four years the alliance has screened the vision of more than 500,000 people and dispensed almost 200,000 pairs of eyeglasses to those who needed them. Importantly, it has also helped us to identify the scale of the workplace challenge – one in three workers don’t have the glasses they needed to see clearly.
The power of partnership
Critical to CVW’s success is that all of the partners benefit; global brands are able to do something impactful for the workers in their supplier chains; factories see higher productivity and reduced waste; and the workers themselves can increase their incomes and extend their careers.
Inviting multi-sector partners into our work and has helped amplify our mission. As we are working to solve a problem “hiding in plain sight,” more stakeholders means more vision evangelists.
Bridging the gap
We have bigger ambitions too. We want our workplace programs to be the jumping off point for getting affordable eyeglasses to everybody.
Of the 500,000 people who have now had their vision screened through the CVW program, 300,000 workers are in Bangladesh. But this is a small proportion of the estimated 4 million workers in our garment sector. According to VisionSpring’s data, an estimated 1.2 million of these workers need glasses. While we have made progress, we’re only 15% of the way there. At the current rate it would take us more than 22 years. With proven models, now is the time to grow.
We recently convened a group of stakeholders in Bangladesh to accelerate the delivery of more glasses, more quickly. Our partners from the garment sector and others from the vision sector (including Sightsavers and Orbis) met with the Bangladesh Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organisation. Central to this discussion was the importance of vision in supporting people’s livelihoods.
By expanding our partnerships we can not only meet an eye screening target, but also align with global Sustainable Development Goals in the effort to end poverty and give all people the opportunity to enjoy prosperity.