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Fred Hollows Foundation campaigns to close eyecare gender gap

20/03/2019By Myles Hume
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The Fred Hollows Foundation has launched a campaign to raise $25 million over five years to address the disproportionate number of women without access to adequate eyecare.

The Australian-based international development organisation has commenced its She Sees initiative, after commissioning UK research firm the Economist Intelligence Unit to undertake a global study. The subsequent report – Restoring Women’s Sight – highlights the significant gender disparity in eyecare and its effect on women.

According to the study women account for at least 55% of the world’s blind, and are 1.3 times more likely to be blind or vision impaired than men. The report also claims four out of five of those women suffer from avoidable blindness, with the problem exacerbated by most living in low and middle income countries.

“The findings show us a way forward for closing the gender gap and ensuring women have better access to services,” said Fred Hollows Foundation founding director Ms Gabi Hollows, the widow of the foundation’s namesake.



“We know that vision impairment and blindness have far-reaching implications not just for the women affected, but also for their families.”
Fred Hollows Foundation founding director Gabi Hollows.

“We know that vision impairment and blindness have far-reaching implications not just for the women affected, but also for their families, and for progress towards many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as Gender Equality, and Decent Work and Economic Growth.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit study is claimed to be a landmark report, assessing the social implications on psychological wellbeing, income earning potential and the capacity of women to participate actively in society.

It also identified how blindness and visual impairment affects women’s health, functioning, quality of life and examined costs to the wider family both in social and economic terms.

In analysing reasons behind the eye health disparity, the report highlighted six areas including; a higher life expectancy among women leading to some eye diseases such as cataracts being more prevalent; women not experiencing the same level of access to eye care as men; treatment being prioritised for men because women often lacked a stable source of income and decision-making power; transport costs; and the need for some women to be accompanied to receive care.

The report coincides with the launch of the foundation’s She Sees project, a fund that aims to raise $25 million over the next five years to ensure more women have access to eye health services. With a focus on affordable and accessible eyecare, the foundation’s goal is to end gendered discrimination in eye health and to empower women and girls with sight.

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The initiative will also complement the orgainsation’s other international gender-based projects, including the improvement of eye health for female factory workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam, assisting female agriculture and cottage industry workers in Pakistan, and associated eyecare projects in China and Nepal.

 

More reading:

Emotional story behind famous Fred Hollows photograph revealed
Another record year for The Fred Hollows Foundation

 

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