Gender and Blindness

55% of the world’s vision impaired are women

Gender and Blindness

The latest data shows that 55% of the world’s visually impaired are women. In the industrialised countries this is because women live longer than men, but in non-industrialised settings, where cataract is responsible for most blindness, it is simply because women do not get to access services with the same frequency as men. For example the cataract surgical coverage among women in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia is nearly always lower, sometimes only half that in men.

Barriers prevent both women and men from receiving surgery and they are often more problematic for women. They include:

  • Cost of surgery: Women often have less access to family financial resources to pay for eye care or transportation to reach services.
  • Inability to travel to a surgical facility: Women often have fewer options for travel than men. Older women may require assistance, which poor families cannot provide.
  • Differences in the perceived value of surgery: Cataract is often viewed as an inevitable consequence of ageing and women are less likely to have social support in a family to seek care.
  • Lack of access to information and resources: Female literacy is often lower than male, especially among the elderly. Women are less likely to know about the possibility of treatment for eye disease or where to go to receive it.

Unless we make special efforts to ensure eye services for women the correctable disparities in blindness prevalence between men and women will continue.