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Fred Hollows joins forces with UN Women to break cycle of gender gap in eye health

Published: 22.09.2023

The Fred Hollows Foundation is partnering with UN Women to launch a landmark policy brief that calls for urgent action to address the gender gap in eye health.

The joint policy brief ‘No Woman Left Behind: Closing the Gender and Inclusion Gap in Eye Health’, launched in New York on 19 September, provides clear evidence of gender disparities in eye health and highlights the barriers women face in accessing eye care.

The Foundation’s Global Advocacy Executive Director Jennifer Gersbeck said the brief revealed a major public health concern and development issue that impacts 609 million women and girls globally.

“Women and girls make up 55 per cent of the world’s blind and vision impaired,” Ms Gersbeck said.

“We know that gender inequality can increase women’s susceptibility to blindness and vision impairment – and in turn, women’s blindness and vision impairment can reinforce and help perpetuate gender inequality.

“We need to break this cycle.”

Key barriers facing women include care responsibilities which make it difficult to prioritise their own health and gender norms that can limit a woman’s mobility in communities where they rely on men to chaperon them.

Women also have a lack of representation in eye health services, with World Health Organization data showing that they comprise 70 percent of the global healthcare workforce but hold less than 25 percent of senior roles.

Ms Gersbeck said that, together with UN Women, The Foundation called for greater voice, leadership representation, resourcing and rights-based policies to accelerate gender equity in health.

“Better access to health services for all women and girls is necessary, but it is not enough,” she said.

“We must challenge and remove the barriers that stop women from occupying seats at the decision-making table.

“Meeting women’s health needs and eliminating gender inequality are moral imperatives and fundamental human rights.”

Ms Gersbeck, along with Australia’s ambassador for Regional Health Security Dr Stephanie Williams and Dr Ciku Mathenge, one of Africa’s leading ophthalmologists trained by The Foundation, will speak at the policy launch.

The joint policy brief is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

The report can be accessed here