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Friends of Vision Side Event for The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

Friends of Vision Side Event for The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

How can eye health contribute to achieving gender equity and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change?

Date: Wednesday, 16th March 2022

Time: 08:00 AM EST

The United Nations (UN) Friends of Vision will host a panel in the margins of the 66th Commission for the Status of Women. The theme of this year’s CSW is “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”. 

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. Conversely, the impacts of climate change and vision impairment, perpetuate the cycle of socioeconomic marginalization of women and girls and impede progress towards gender equality.

The event will 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. 

Date & Time
The high-level event “How can eye health contribute to achieving gender equity and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change?” will be a virtual event to ensure Covid-19 precautions are taking into account while offering access to the global community.

It will take place at 08:00am EST on 16 March, 2022
Participants will be able to register online here:


Registration questions will be directed to Brooke Blanchard at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) by emailing: [email protected]

Once attendees have registered, they will receive all participation and sign-in details via email and the option to download a suitable calendar invitation.


Jennifer Gersbeck

Jennifer Gersbeck

The Fred Hollows Foundation and Chair, IAPB Gender Equity Work Group.

Jennifer has extensive experience working in government and the not-for-profit sector, leading a wide range of social marketing campaigns aimed at raising awareness, changing behaviour and influencing key decision makers. She has worked across the health, disability and international development sectors and has a reputation for fostering collaboration and delivering results by applying innovative strategic approaches to advocacy. Under Jennifer’s leadership, Vision 2020 Australia was transformed from an aspiring peak body to a highly respected and successful organisation with a reputation as an international leader in the eye health and vision care sector.


H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson,

H.E. Ambassador Walton Webson

H.E. Dr. Walton Webson is the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Antigua and Barbuda and Founder/Co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group.

Previously, Ambassador Webson worked for several international nongovernment organizations including Sight Savers International of the (UK), The Caribbean Council for the Blind, (Antigua and Barbuda), Hellen Keller International of New York and Perkins International. At the UN, Ambassador Webson has served as President for UNICEF, chaired numerous steering committees and was the lead sponsor on two resolutions affecting the lives of persons with disabilities around the world and is considered as a champion on disabilities issues and a leading voice on issues of Small States.

Ambassador Rabab Fatima

H.E. Ambassador Rabab Fatima

H.E. Ambassador Rabab Fatima is the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Bangladesh, and Co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group. Ambassador Fatima is a career diplomat who served in various Bangladesh missions including, in the Permanent Mission to the UN New York, Kolkata, Permanent Mission to the UN Geneva, and Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing. She has served in various positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commonwealth Secretariat as Head of Human Rights, the International Organization for Migration as the Regional Representative for South Asia, and as the Regional Adviser for South and South-west Asia & Regional Adviser for Climate Change and Migration in IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Geraldine Bryne Nason

H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Bryne Nason is the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Ireland and Co-chair of the UN Friends of Vision Group. During her career, Ambassador Byrne Nason has served in Brussels, New York, Paris, Vienna and Helsinki. As Second Secretary-General in the Department of the Taoiseach from 2011-2014, she was the highest ranking female public servant in Ireland and was Secretary General of Ireland’s Economic Management Council. Since her arrival in New York, Ambassador Byrne Nason has been Chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and more recently co-chaired high level political negotiations on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and on the pathway for Small Island Developing States, ahead of the major summit on that subject in September 2019.

HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO

HRH The Countess of Wessex

A member of the British Royal Family, The Countess of Wessex splits her time between her work in support of Her Majesty The Queen and visits to her own charities and organisations. The Countess is passionate about eliminating avoidable blindness and, since 2003, has been a Global Ambassador for IAPB. She was also Patron of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. As Vice Patron of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, The Countess has helped more than 22 million people in Africa and the Pacific receive vital antibiotics to combat trachoma – the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. In 2013, Her Royal Highness visited the Orbis flying hospital programme in India and Qatar where she saw first-hand the many global issues around preventable blindness. The Countess enjoys an active role as an IAPB Global Ambassador, she has hosted an IAPB meeting with Her Majesty The Queen to mark World Sight Day 2020, attended a Vision for the Commonwealth event at St James’ Palace and marked the elimination of Trachoma in the Gambia in Spring 2021.

Åsa Regnér

Åsa Regnér

Ms. Åsa Regnér was appointed Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women in March 2018. Ms. Regnér served since 2014 as Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, where her focus was on concrete results in the implementation of Swedish gender equality policies as well as a shift towards prevention of violence against women and the involvement of men and boys in gender equality work. She has extensive experience in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment, having held various leadership positions in government, NGOs and the United Nations. She previously served as UN Women Country Director in Bolivia (2013-2014) and Secretary-General of Riksförbundet för sexuell upplysning, Swedish International Planned Parenthood Federation branch. She also served as Director of Planning, Ministry of Justice (2004-2006) and as Political Adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office (1999-2004).

Werner Obermeyer

Werner Obermeyer

Werner Obermeyer is Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) office at UN Headquarters in New York. His portfolio includes the promotion of health in the General Assembly and other inter-governmental processes, the WHO’s relations with the UN system entities based in New York, as well as non-governmental organizations that focus on public health issues. He was responsible for the negotiations which culminated in adoption of the 2011, 2014 and 2018 Political Declarations on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, the 2016 Political Declaration on Anti-Microbial Resistance, the 2018 Political Declaration on Tuberculosis and the 2019 Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage.


Sumrana Yasmin

Sumrana Yasmin

Sumrana Yasmin, Sightsavers’ Senior Global Technical Lead for Refractive Error. She is currently seconded to the World Health Organization to support its work in that field. She is also a member of IAPB working groups on Gender Equity, Refractive Errors and School Eye Health. As a professional in international development, particularly in eye health and social inclusion, she has been working with various non-profit organisations in different capacities to support and manage programmes globally.

She actively promotes gender equity by documenting and researching gender issues related to health, education, and sustainable development; strengthening the capacity of partner organisations to integrate gender equity in various initiatives; networking with like-minded organisations; advocating for gender equity and social inclusion in development policies and strategies; and supporting women’s empowerment and leadership in programme development.

Mitasha Yu

Mitasha Yu

Mitasha Yu is a public health expert with over 16 years’ experience in public health eye care, international development, and clinical optometry. Mitasha works at the World Health Organization in the Vision and Eye Care Programme. One of her focus areas is the eye care workforce, including leading the development of the Eye Care Competency Framework, which is a critical tool for workforce planning and development. She is also the Co-Chair of the Climate Action Working Group at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, as she is passionate about promoting the link between climate change and eye care, and climate action strategies the sector can implement. Mitasha holds a Bachelor of Optometry and a Master of Public Health from the University of New South Wales, Australia

Rachel Stancliff

Rachel Stancliffe

Rachel has a first degree in Human Sciences from Oxford where began her studies on systems thinking and population health with an aim to work across disciplines on complex problems. Following an MSc in Demography from the LSE, she worked in public health in the UK. She then spent 5 years in Moscow, Georgia and Kazakhstan where she worked for Save the Children, The Norwegian Refugee Council, UNDP, UNICEF and the Red Cross on projects including capacity building for the government, running household surveys and writing the Human Development Report.

Upon returning to Oxford, she helped to develop The Cochrane Library. For the past 14 years, Rachel has been working on the intersection of health and the environment and founded The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) in 2008. CSH is supporting the transformation of healthcare in the UK and internationally for a sustainable future. Rachel is also the founding Director of the Community Interest Company, Global Healthcare Information Network and is on several Boards.

Lara Partridge

Lara Partridge

Global Head of Talent, Santen

A proud Australian, Lara has been based in Singapore the last 12 years specializing in Talent, DE&I and philanthropy in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In her current role as Santen’s Global Head of Talent she leads a global team of specialists working on talent and inclusion initiatives with a focus on social innovation and vision equity. Prior to joining Santen in 2021, Lara was the Head of Talent, Asia for the Macquarie Group and the Global Head of Talent Management for Standard Chartered.

Passionate about eye health, DE&I and sustainable philanthropy, Lara contributed to multiple projects in her time with Standard Chartered through the Bank’s Seeing is Believing partnership with IAPB, including leading a Mount Kilimanjaro global fundraising climb in 2017, which enabled two full years of eye health funding for projects across Tanzania.