Men and women go blind at nearly the same rate. But in low-income countries, a large majority of those who receive treatment are men. The disparity is especially drastic among children, where girls make up two-thirds of those living with treatable blindness.
In low-income countries, women and girls are far less likely to have access to eye care services because of the barriers they face. Lack of education, limited decision-making power within their households, poor access to financial resources, and cultural restrictions on travelling alone can make it nearly impossible for women and girls to receive proper care.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes their responsibilities within the home that make women and girls more susceptible to certain eye conditions, such as trachoma and trichiasis. In addition, male children are often given preferential treatment by their families and are more likely to receive eye care should they need it.
Seva Canada and our donors are working hard to help women and girls overcome these barriers, ensuring they have an equal right to sight.
Seva Canada has taken explicit leadership in increasing gender equity within eye care. Seva Canada collaborated with KCCO, our partner in Africa, on research that first identified the gender inequity in the treatment of blindness. We funded the publication of that research which resulted in a worldwide shift in the way organizations and institutions both gather and use their data. By helping our program partners improve their data collection, we can accurately track how many women are receiving services and assess the effectiveness of our interventions designed to achieve gender equity. Today, as a direct result, women and girls have better access to care.
Overcoming cultural and economic barriers, Seva Canada donors have intervened at the community level to provide women and girls with eye care. Women and girls are not able to travel freely and in most cases will stay blind until eye care comes to their doorstep. Simple strategies are often the most effective in overcoming the barriers women and girls face in accessing care. Strategies such as: training outreach workers to go door to door to find women and girls in need of care, providing counselling to families, offering free transportation, and bringing eye care to the villages through Community Eye Centres.
There is some good news. Globally, due to strategies like the ones that Seva and its partners have implemented, the number of women who are blind has decreased by 10%. Unfortunately that statistical improvement does not extend to girls who are still half as likely as boys to access eye care services. Seva Canada is now advocating for girls as it did for women.
Our donors ensure that women and girls living in poor, rural areas get the eye care services they need and deserve. From providing outreach and education, to community screenings, transportation arrangements, and unique partnerships with women’s groups, Seva Canada and our donors ensure women and girls have an equal right to sight.