These blog posts are part of the IAPB Gender Equity Work Group‘s work to raise awareness of gender equity in eye health.
Amber Naz, a primary health worker from Sohawa, has been providing primary eye care to her community since 2008, but her passion and commitment motivated her to transcend geographical barriers. She is now reaching out to communities in remote villages, encouraging young women to be part of the eye health workforce, and promoting the agenda of vision for everyone… everywhere.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey?
I live in a rural area where education and employment opportunities are not easily accessible for girls and women. I couldn’t continue my education after secondary school due to unavailability of any higher secondary school in my area. I planned for a job after completing my secondary school certificate but faced challenges of cultural stereotypes associated with the jobs of women and unavailability of opportunities.
What is the one thing that has helped you get to where you are today?
My passion to serve my community helped me garner my family’s support, that I needed in my culture, to get where I am today.
Why is it important to achieve gender balance?
Women constitute half of the population of Pakistan and their share in development is negligible. It is, therefore, important to achieve gender balance especially in the context of developing countries.
As a woman, why are you committed to doing this work?
I observed that in my community, a large number of women and girls especially the elderly and those with disabilities were not able to access eye health services. In rural areas, majority of the households are headed by men and women’s access to basic necessities is strongly constrained by their decisions. This demands a system or setup where women are providing health services to other women and girls within their villages. That’s why I decided to join primary health workforce.
How have you helped change the gender balance?
My father is a source of inspiration for me. I always observe him facilitating local community in resolving their daily life issues. Since childhood, I dreamed about becoming like him, a humanitarian. My father challenged the cultural stereotypes associated with a woman being employed and motivated me to join the public-sector primary eye health workforce.
How can we support younger women in your profession?
I believe that women empowerment programmes by public and private sector organisations can support many other women in rural and remote areas of countries like Pakistan in accessing eye health services and earning a reasonable income for their families. A market-oriented skillset along with reasonable income becomes a source of earning good repute and respect from community.
How can the eye health sector work towards gender balance?
To achieve gender balance in eye health sector, we need to provide equitable education; develop supportive infrastructure; promote success stories to encourage others; engage with family and community leaders; and focus on most margin.