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To Do list for Gender Equity in Eye Health For the Decade

Published: 07.03.2022

Elderly woman and her daughter in Peru smiling and holding hands behind a bench in a house


The latest data shows that 55% of the world’s visually impaired are women and girls. Vision loss has far-reaching implications, not just for the women affected, but also for their families and communities. We cannot achieve the SDG’s when half the world is held back and without creating equal spaces for women and mitigating any discrimination. 

IAPB celebrates International Women’s Day with the theme ‘Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ as part of Focus on Gender Equity (supported by Santen). We invited Gender Equity Champions to create a ‘To Do list’ for Gender Equity in Eye Health For the Decade’ – what they want to achieve and see. 

Here are the responses: 

Dr. Anita Omar 

Dr. Anita Omar 

Public Health Ophthalmologist , Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah , Ministry of Health, Malaysia 

  1. Providing eye health services nearer to the community

Poverty, transportation issues and inability to spare family time for treatment are factors affecting access to eye care. All these issues can be addressed by bringing the services to community. 

2. Empowering women with awareness on eye health needs

Women have always been marginalised in many aspects leading to anxiety, apprehension, fear, and inferiority complex. Empowering them with knowledge would help them come forward for treatment. 

3. Women as the catalyst for eye health in children

As mothers, women should be empowered with awareness and latest advances in eye health which is important in prevention and treatment of refractive error in children. 

Carly Iles

Carly Iles

Vision 2020 Australia

  1. Prioritising eye care services for women and girls.  
  2. Creating a culture in the eye health sector that encourages and promotes women in leadership and ensures the necessary supports are in place to enable their success.  
  3. Advocating for gender equity with partner governments to remove systemic barriers to women and girls accessing eye health services.
Ana Cama

Anasaini Cama 

The Fred Hollows Foundation 

To achieve gender equity in eye health by 2030 the following should be targeted or strengthened: 

  1. Employers / Cooperate level staff (governance / HIS) 

a) Strive to remove (unconscious) bias when recruiting or training eye health workers  

b) Encourage fair working conditions and remuneration based on merit, output and understanding of the broader gender responsibilities played outside work 

c)Improve on gender breakdown when collecting, analysing and reporting data 

2. Frontline workers / Heath workers delivering the service (program planning) 

a) Better understanding and respect of traditional, cultural and religious expectations of women … will lead to improvements in addressing these when rolling out eye health programmes 

3. Population receiving the eye health service (awareness & advocacy / medicines & technologies) 

a) Recognition of the contribution women and girls make in the community and the importance of their health 

b) Increasing education opportunities for girls and young women leading to better understanding and management of eye health conditions of family members 

Komal Ram

Komal Ram

Pacific Programme Manager, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ 

  1. More women in leadership positions   

We will not see an improved response to accessing care by women until women are involved at all levels of decision making in health services. In 2021 the Fred Hollows Foundation NZ appointed its first Pacific woman CEO. This has driven an enhanced focus on practical action to correct systemic inequalities and has enabled valuable conversations with Pacific women.  

2. Utilise technology to bring opportunities to the home  

Travelling to work or study isn’t an option for many women, eliminating opportunities by default. A happy effect of COVID-19 was accelerated investment in online, remote education opening up eye care study to more women. 

3. Tailor eye care provision to women 

The WHO World Report on Vision suggests gender inequity in eye care services could be explained by greater challenges for women in travelling to health services. This is true for many Pacific women whose schedules often revolve around the needs of the household and aren’t planned or predictable. Providing eyecare alongside other primary health checks and bringing outreach healthcare to communities is key to increasing access for women. 

Christine Fajardo

Country Corporate Affairs and Comms and Engagement Head 

Novartis Healthcare Philippines Inc. 

  1.  Adopt a systems approach to gender equity through gender mainstreaming, including gender analysis and gender impact assessments. 

 2.  Standardize data generation and disaggregation to provide evidence of gender disparity in health. Assess the impact of organizations’ contributions to women’s health issues. 

3.  Empower men and women to have good health seeking behavior. Include eye health in women-related awareness campaigns or celebrations. Establish a dedicated multi-disciplinary health center for young girls and women addressing preventive health, mental health, reproductive health, women’s cancers, heart health, and eye health. 


Linabel Hadlee 

International Programmes Director, CBM New Zealand 

 1. Women participation is essential for Gender Equity in Eye Health.  

2. In Papua New Guinea, a country with a high prevalence of blindness and poverty, women are demonstrating leadership across various areas: operating as eye health professionals, ophthalmologists and nurses at outreach clinics. As caregivers, holding the hands to loved ones as they access eye treatment and as development workers who drive innovation, adaptation and collaboration on behalf of their communities.  

3. But it is not enough to develop programmes that focus on women in the context of eye health, we need to bring women’s voices to the table and work together. 

Laura Patricia Gordo PEÑA


Colegio Federación Colombiana de Optómetras – Fedopto  

Dentro de los aspectos a tener en cuenta para la equidad de género en lo que se refiere a la Salud Visual pudieran ser: 


  1. La igualdad en las oportunidades laborales permite a las mujeres tener acceso a la afiliación al sistema de salud y mejora el acceso a los servicios de salud visual tanto en diagnóstico, como en tratamiento y/o rehabilitación
  2. La igualdad en las oportunidades educativas en salud, hace que las madres de familia repliquen a sus hijos educación en prevención y promoción de la salud específicamente hábitos saludables.


– equity in job offers will facilitate better access to health services improving diagnostic treatment and rehabilitation services.   

– equity in education will facilitate that mothers teach their children healthy life style habits.


Alejandra Castillo

Optometry Lecturer at La Salle, University

Consultant for UN on Disability projects, and ARN Reincorporation and Normalization Agency Colombia

  1. Gender equity recognizes the rights of women in many scenarios, I believe that it is important to begin to recognize the role of the female optometrist and ophthalmologist and of the entire team that supports the processes of eye health care.
  2. It is necessary to guarantee better salaries and time and emotional inventiveness, like breastfeeding rooms in institutions, associated with the different roles that women assume in society, such as mother, businesswoman, employee, leader of their community, among others.
  3. Health institutions must guarantee work climates of well-being, where the role of women in their professional work is highlighted, as well as guarantee adequate and sufficient consultation times to develop comprehensive care, which impacts on positive visual health results for the entire population.

Geoffrey Wabulembo

Eye Health Director, Light for the World

  1. Conduct a gender analysis at the start of each eye health project to ensure equal access for women.
  2. Ringfence budget for transport and child care, a poor patient fund, reasonable accommodation, and outreaches. At service points, be ready to fast track women with disabilities, pregnant women and those with babies. These actions will help reach more women, especially in rural areas.
  3. Finally, capacity development for all eye health workers on gender equality is pivotal— as well as leadership training for women in the eye health sector!

Ciku Mathenge

Director-Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology 

Medical Advisor- Global Programs (Africa) at Orbis International 

  • Make eye health facilities safe and friendly to female patients, especially older women- Halima did not come for surgery because she did not want to share a waiting room with men while dressed in only a theatre gown.  
  • Advocate for economic empowerment of women by supporting initiatives for appropriate wages for the jobs women in LMICS do daily- Wanjiru delayed surgery for 4 years as her husband did not give her money for surgery  
  • Educate all women- an educated woman will not say that blindness is “Gods will” as Mama Yvette said when asked why she waited so long for care 

Lucia Nadaf

Country Director, Orbis International Zambia

Clare Szalay Timbo

Associate Director of Clinical Training, Orbis International 

  1. Women need visibility and to be represented in all spaces where decisions are being made. 

2. When you educate and prioritize a girl/woman for services, then you ensuring this type of support is possible for the whole community. Women/girls need to be centered and included in initiatives and programs for them to become sustainable.  

3. As those who bear the burden of global vision impairment, women, who often are also primary care givers, need to be prioritize and given the attention they deserve.  


Louisa Syrett

Global Advocacy Advisor

The Fred Hollows Foundation

  • Ensure we sex disaggregate data by sex so we build systems, processes and programmes that will help women, who are disproportionately affected by eye health conditions
  • Organisations must actively strive to recruit females into senior leadership positions for gender parity and to ensure female voices are at the table where decisions are being made

Focus on Gender Equity, throughout the year, shares knowledge, inspiration and ideas from some of the world’s most innovative experts and inserts eye health and Gender Equality onto the agenda of the world’s most pressing development issues and is supported by Santen.