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Published: 22.03.2022
HRH Countess

NEW YORK – HRH The Countess of Wessex in her role as Global Ambassador for IAPB joined UN leaders and representatives from the sight sector to highlight the link between eye health and gender equity last week. The event was hosted by the UN Friends of Group in the margins of the 66th Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) which this year has a focus on climate change.

Attendees discussed how eye health can contribute to achieving gender equity and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change.

Climate change and eye health are linked in a cause-and-effect cycle that threatens to undo decades of progress in global health and leave vulnerable populations of women and girls at risk of being left behind. The economic, social, and cultural norms that make women and girls in low and middle-income countries more susceptible to poverty, are the same factors that put them at greater risk of vision impairment and climate change related events. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change and vision impairment, perpetuate the cycle of socioeconomic marginalisation of women and girls and impede progress towards gender equality.

Speaking to an audience of diplomats, development professions and those from the eye health sector HRH The Countess of Wessex said “it is very heartening to see how in the field of vision, agencies, organisations and the private sector can come together and create a massive groundswell to be able to tackle these problems.”

Jennifer Gersbeck, Co-chair of the IAPB Gender Equity Work Group, who moderated the event said “It is important for us as a sector to focus on the intersection between vision, gender and climate change and our call for the urgent need to dismantle structural and sociocultural barriers that contribute to keeping women and girls trapped in poverty and disproportionately vulnerable to vision impairment and climate change.”

The event was held jointly with the World Health Organisation and UN Women. Asa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women, said “Sadly, women in many countries continue to face significant barriers to accessing health care and to realising their rights to health. Addressing inequalities and removing gender-related barriers to services will advance eye health”

Speaking on the role of the private sector at the event Lara Partridge, Global Head of Talent, Santen said “We can make the conscious choice to bring these issues together and make them whole, so we have that multiplier effect where it is needed most. We consciously choose partnerships with the IAPB and with the Gender Equity Work Group because we know that we will go further, and we will achieve more if we add our efforts and strengths to the efforts of others”.

Earlier in the week HRH The Countess of Wessex met with UN Friends of Vision Ambassadors and leaders from UN-Women, UNICEF, WHO and the International Labour Organization to discuss the recent UN Resolution on vision and the importance of working together with governments, business, and civil society to achieve 2030 IN SIGHT, a strategy that aims to embed vision as a fundamental, economic, social and development issue, incorporate eye health in wider health care systems and drive patient, consumer, and market change. All of which are fundamental to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.