On 16 March 2022, The UN Friends of Vision hosted an official side event at the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the links between eye health, gender equality and climate change. CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The expert panel discussion, How Can Eye Health Contribute to Achieving Gender Equity and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls in the Context of Climate Change, was co-sponsored by UN Women and the World Health Organization (WHO). Speakers included Friends of Vision UN Ambassador Co-Chairs, as well as gender, eye health and climate specialists across the sectors.
UN Women Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General Asa Regnér and Director of the WHO office in New York, Werner Obermeyer provided keynote addresses. A Call to Action was given by IAPB Global Ambassador HRH The Countess of Wessex.
Jennifer Gersbeck, Executive Director of Global Advocacy at the Fred Hollows Foundation and 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.”
Addressing 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.”
Ms. 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.”
The event brought in a global audience representing over 55 different countries. As an indication that eye health is being successfully elevated as a critical development issue, various UN Permanent Missions, government ministers and international development organizations registered and attended the discussion.
The Friends of Vision Group looks forward to continuing its work and engaging 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.