Blindness gender inequality for women and girls | Orbis

Blindness gender inequality for women and girls

Blindness is a gender issue: globally there are 112 million more women than men living with vision loss, including blindness.

Many barriers prevent both women and men from accessing eye health services, but these barriers can often be more problematic for women.

These barriers differ around the world and across communities, but a lack of education, difficulty in accessing finances, and an inability to travel mean that women and girls are disproportionately affected by blindness.

Why Do More Women Live With Sight Loss Than Men?

There are a range of reasons that sight loss tends to affect women more than men:

  • Across the world, female literacy rates are lower than they are for men and boys, especially among older women. This means that women are often unaware of treatment options and unable to make their own plans to travel and access the eye care they need
  • Gender inequity may also mean that the healthcare needs of men are prioritized over women. In communities where men are traditionally the breadwinners and women manage domestic tasks, men's needs are often seen as more important
  • Studies shown that fewer women have cataract surgery, despite women being more affected by the condition globally.
Zambian patient Gladys has a cataract caused by trauma to the eye

Cataract surgery rates are lower for women despite more women being affected by the condition

What Are the Challenges Women Face Due to Blindness?

Women are more at risk of trachoma trichiasis

Traditional gender roles also put women more at risk of infectious eye diseases. Take trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness which results in a blinding condition called trachomatous trichiasis, where the eyelashes rub painfully against the eye.

Women make up 70% of people affected by this painful and blinding disease, because they are more exposed to children who are the main carriers of the infection.

Women and girls care for relatives with vision loss

Worldwide, caring for relatives with visual impairment and household chores often falls on women and girls.

This has a direct impact on opportunities to access education, employment and income, while then increasing the risk of contracting a blinding disease at home.

Women who are blind face double the discrimination

Globally, disabled women experience a double burden of discrimination: because of their disability and because of their gender. This can lead to social exclusion and abuse, which can impact whether someone is able to access health services and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

How Is Orbis Tackling Gender Inequality?

Together with our network of partners and supporters, Orbis is working to close the gender blindness gap and help women and girls reach their full potential by:

  • Setting up women-led Green Vision Centres in Bangladesh and India that address a variety of traditional barriers for women and girls. Orbis trains women-led management teams to run the centres, empowering women in the community through job creation and increasing their financial independence
  • Supporting Dr. Trúc to carry out training to tackle avoidable blindness at the Hue Eye Hospital in Vietnam, where she specialises in treating glaucoma
  • Working at a grassroots level in Ethiopia to ensure women are treated for trachoma


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