Sightsavers calls for accessible healthcare for women and girls.

In Pakistan and across the world, women and girls face inequalities that increase their risk of disease, disability, gender-based violence, and mortality. For example, women are more likely to be blind, but men are twice as likely to have access to necessary eye care as women. And for many women, getting their health issues addressed is at the bottom of a long list of challenges and priorities.
This International Women’s Day, Wednesday, 8 March, international development organisation Sightsavers calls for all health services to be inclusive and accessible for women and girls, including those with disabilities.

Munazza Gillani, Sightsavers Pakistan’s Country Director, said: “Some diseases affect more women than men. Women are four times more likely to develop infectious eye diseases than men. They are also more likely to be blind or have a visual impairment but much less likely to have access to the eye care they need. “Without action, women will continue to be left behind in health care, having their health and chances of education and employment curtailed.”

This International Women’s Day, Sightsavers is also celebrating trailblazing women who are going above and beyond to make this happen.

This includes Munazza Gillani herself, who has worked for the organisation for more than 16 years and has worked hard to include women in health services, both on the demand and supply sides.
It also includes Leena Ahmed, a Programme Manager for Eye Health and Inclusion who has an incredible record of executing inclusive eye health projects and has legitimate field findings. According to her, in rural settings, women are not allowed to go to the health facilities unless and until a male member of the family accompanies them. She is leading work to meet these challenges by providing eye care services at the primary level.

Leena said: “Women tend to be able to access basic eye examination or eye screening services. But when it comes to surgical services, which involve cost and money, the male [family] member will decide whether it’s of use to spend so much money on a women’s surgery or a pair of glasses. This can badly affect how women can access eye health services because they are dependent on the male members of their family, and they look up to them for decisions on such matters.”

Despite the stereotypes and challenging societal norms, female optometrists in Pakistan are making significant contributions to eye care and public health. They are actively involved in providing primary eye care services, diagnosing and managing various eye conditions, and raising awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations. Leena shared that 59% of optometrists in our projects are female, proving themselves capable in optometry.

Leena Ahmed added, “The data generated by Sightsavers’ programs show that 60% of people we benefit from are women, which is very positive. We are not just providing them services but encouraging them to claim their rights and make services available to them.” Sightsavers works with partners to improve access to health services for all, including women and people with disabilities, such as treatments to protect against neglected tropical diseases and sight-restoring operations. Sightsavers also ensure women can access information on health issues such as reducing disease transmission and maternal and newborn health services.

Sharing is caring

Leave a Reply