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Vision Excellence Awards: Elizabeth Kurian

Elizabeth Kurian has over 28 years of illustrious leadership experience in the corporate and development sectors, most of which have been in the eye health & disability rights domain.

With 5+ years of consulting experience at The Nielsen Company, Elizabeth forayed into eye health in 1999 with Sightsavers as Programme Officer, and in 2007 grew to CEO for India, a country where Sightsavers has the maximum number of programmes. Elizabeth led a team that enabled the strengthening of eye health systems in 17 states, annually impacting over 3 million persons; in partnership with over 100 organisations and government agencies. Elizabeth steered the development of nationally acknowledged guidelines for cataract, diabetic retinopathy and tertiary eye care. She also led the registration of Sightsavers India and its fundraising from the ground up.

Elizabeth was thereafter Sightsavers’ Global Director of Advocacy, influencing the organisational global eye health & disability agendas with the UN and other key bodies. She was the Chair of Sightsavers’ International Advocacy Coordination Team and a member of various global teams. Her key advocacy successes include making banking accessible for persons with visual impairment in India, Amendment of Copyright Act 1957 and the positioning of disability & UHC in the SDGs.

After 14+ years at Sightsavers, Elizabeth joined Mission for Vision (MFV) as the CEO in 2014. Over the 6+ years of her time at MFV, she has charted the growth of MFV’s programme base from 0.4 million to impact 16+ million persons, in 21 states of India, in partnership with 34 leading institutions. Under her leadership primary eye care, building evidence and Allied Ophthalmic Personnel capacity are key priorities of the organisation. MFV also innovated PRISM, a unique IT-enabled tool that provides evidence on the impact of cataract surgery on the life of persons. In partnership with IAPB, MFV also addresses the eye health needs of all school children in Bhutan. MFV’s funding base has more than doubled with Elizabeth’s leadership.

Elizabeth is a recipient of several awards; written for several publications and has a board and advisory roles in VISION 2020: The Right to Sight – India and other bodies. She has worked with some of the most remote, desert, tribal and nomadic communities and feels privileged to have contributed significantly to the Global Action Plan and the reduction of blindness over two decades, to its current prevalence of 0.36% in India.

Elizabeth’s qualifications include a Master’s degree in Nutrition (university first rank) and an Executive Programme in Business Management from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. She has also completed several leadership and strategy courses from Harvard Business School and other premier institutes.

Elizabeth is incredibly grateful for the opportunities to contribute positively to a better world. She is greatly inspired by her mother and other women achievers. Her favourite maxim is Hellen Keller’s, “I am only one, but still I am one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.”