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Key Things to know about Gender Equity in Eye Health

Explore the current roadblocks and the solutions on the road ahead around gender equity in eye health.

Women and girls continue to experience a disproportionate burden of sight loss, especially in low- and middle-income settings. The gender divide is expected to get worse without significant intervention, and will hamper our progress to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are several reasons that make a strong case for gender sensitive interventions in eye health and understanding them becomes vital to devise the most effective roadmap to the future of equal opportunities for women and girls to lead, work, demand, and access eyecare.

The Roadblocks Higher proportion of sight loss Greater risk for sight loss Less access to care Under representation among decision makers Additional barriers for ethnic minorities

The Roadblocks

  • Higher proportion of sight loss: There are more females than males with sight loss in every category of vision impairment and blindness. Of the 1.1 billion people with sight loss, 55% are women and most live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).1
  • Greater risk for sight loss: Women are at increased risk of developing some eye conditions that can lead to vision impairment and blindness, such as age-related macular degeneration, trachomatous trichiasis and cataract. A recent systematic review from India found women have 35% higher odds of being blind compared to men.2
  • Less access to care: Women are less likely to be able to afford or access services and information. For example, the recent report from the WHO on 2030 targets on effective coverage of eye care states that more men than women have accessed good quality cataract surgery and refractive error services (3.5% and 10.4% more men than women, respectively).3
  • Under representation among decision makers: Women make up 70% of the health workforce but hold only 25% of senior roles.4 In the eye health sector, only 28.3% of eye health organizations’ board members are women.
  • Additional barriers for ethnic minorities: Ethnic minority women hold the fewest leadership positions, including senior management, board positions, CEO and Chair roles5 and this leads lesser probability of actions that address the actual needs of the population.


Road Ahead Elevate Gender Equity and the SDG Framework Bridge the evidence gap Close the leadership gap Integrate systems that eliminate barriers Prioritize individual action

Road Ahead

  • Elevate Gender Equity and the SDG Framework: We need urgent action from leaders and decision makers, media and publishers, male allies, and women themselves to close the gaps that prevent gender parity in leadership, systems, and care pathways.
  • Bridge the evidence gap: We need to accelerate our efforts to gather more data and publish more evidence to better substantiate the causes and impact of gender inequity in eye health services.
  • Close the leadership gap: WHO suggests four action areas in their framework on closing the leadership gap. This includes building a legal foundation for equality in the workplace, addressing social norms and stereotypes, addressing workplace systems and culture, and enabling women who are the majority in the health and social care workforce to lead.6
  • Integrate systems that eliminate barriers: We need to integrate systems and services to ensure our eye health programs reach women who are otherwise likely to be excluded, and devise monitoring plans that specifically evaluate gender parity outcomes.
  • Prioritize individual action: We need to campaign cleverly to empower women and girl children to advocate for their own eye health. This includes well considered information sharing and clear call to action which will help mitigate existing barriers such as low literacy rates, lack of awareness about eye conditions, stigma, and other social and economic conditions.

Take action

  • Access resources that will help you to get started or progress your efforts to achieve gender equity in eye health
  • Join the collective action led by IAPB Gender Equity Work Group and contribute your expertise and knowledge to help the group meet its objectives.

  1. Bourne R, Steinmetz JD, Flaxman S, Briant PS, Taylor HR, Resnikoff S, et al. Trends in prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment over 30 years: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet Global Health. 2021 Feb 1;9(2):e130–43. Accessed via the IAPB Vision Atlas (
  2. Prasad M, Malhotra S, Kalaivani M, Vashist P, Gupta SK. Gender differences in blindness, cataract blindness and cataract surgical coverage in India: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Ophthalmol. 2020 Feb;104(2):220–4.
  3. Report of the 2030 targets on effective coverage of eye care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2022. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  4. Delivered by women, led by men: a gender and equity analysis of the global health and social workforce. WHO Human Resources for Health Observer Series No. 24. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019.
  5. Yashadhana A, Zhang JH, Yasmin S, Morjaria P, Holland P, Faal H, et al. Action needed to improve equity and diversity in global eye health leadership. Eye. 2020 Jun 1;34(6):1051–4. Accessed via the IAPB Vision Atlas (
  6. Closing the leadership gap: gender equity and leadership in the global health and care workforce. Policy action paper, June 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

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Explore the current roadblocks and the solutions on the road ahead around gender equity in eye health.