Half of the world’s population is made up of women and girls. Women and girls don’t go blind more often than men and boys. Yet, two-thirds of the world’s blind are female.

Why? Because women and girls are far less likely than men and boys to receive eye care services due to social, cultural and economic factors.

Women and Girls Blog

Two women care for their children outside of Lumbini Eye Institute, Nepal. ©Ellen Crystal Photography

In some cultures, women cannot travel alone. In some male-headed households, their needs are not prioritized. And they often have to stay at home to care for children – unable to take even the short time off required for a life-changing operation.

Seva Canada has taken a leadership role in a global initiative to reduce the inequity. The first step was to prove that this inequity exists and holds true across industrialized and developing nations and across all types of preventable and treatable eye conditions. We did this through a 2001 study with the Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO).

Women and Girls Blog

A woman cooks for her family outside of Geta Eye Hospital, Nepal. ©Ellen Crystal Photography

The second step was to identify what barriers women and girls face in accessing care and develop strategies to overcome those barriers.

At our 2015 Annual General Meeting, Fortunate Shija, the Microfinance and Eye Care Coordinator at KCCO in Moshi, Tanzania, joined us to share about the strategies she uses to ensure women and girls get the care they need and deserve. She told a story of a woman who was in need of eye care and was found by a Key Informant, a member of the community trained to identify eye conditions and refer people to care.
Women and Girls Blog

Fortunate Shija and a Key Informant greet a woman after her cataract surgery. ©Ellen Crystal Photography

Seva and KCCO conducted an eye camp in a small town that was the central hub for several villages that had previously had no access to eye care. The Key Informant met a nearly-blind woman who had lost one eye due to an accident and was blind in her other eye due to cataract. The Key Informant told her of the eye camp just a short drive away. The woman replied that she was still not able to go as having one eye covered while it heals would mean that she could not make dinner for her family. Eventually, KCCO and the Key Informant were able to convince her to come and get surgery by finding people in the community to pitch in to make dinner for that night and by promising that she would be fit again to make dinner that the following evening.

In our work to date, simple strategies have proved the most effective: providing counseling to families, offering free transportation and bringing eye care to people’s doorsteps with outreach camps and community ophthalmology programs.

Restoring sight fights poverty by empowering women and girls to return to school, work and a life of independence. Seva donors make this change possible.


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