Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary are twin sisters and optometrists breaking gender barriers and saving sight in India

Twins, optometrists and soccer players: #VisionaryWomen breaking gender barriers

Twin sisters Chhaya and Chhavi are breaking gender barriers. They are #VisionaryWomen who are saving sight and paving paths for girls in India. How did they do it? In part, by playing soccer! This International Women’s Day, discover how Orbis supporters help elevate women and close the gender gap in blindness.

Visionary Women of Orbis

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary never dreamt they’d have a rewarding, professional career. Restricting attitudes about what women can and cannot do are prevalent in many communities around the world. In these places, girls and women do not have the same opportunities as their brothers and fathers.

The twin sisters were raised by their grandmother in a small village in Bihar, India. They had no electricity, no hospital, and no drivable roads. The girls walked 3 miles to and from primary school every day.

Soon school would end for them, and they would have to work at small jobs to help the family.

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary are twin sisters and optometrists breaking gender barriers and saving sight in India

#VisionaryWomen of Orbis: Twin sisters Chhaya and Chhavi are dismantling gender stereotypes and fighting blindness.

Twins Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary

Our expec­ta­tion from life was not much. Grand­moth­er bare­ly made enough mon­ey for the fam­i­ly. Two square meals in a day was a lux­u­ry. Hav­ing big lofty dreams for the future nev­er crossed our minds.”

But the sisters were given a remarkable chance, thanks to Orbis supporters and the founder of Orbis partner Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, Mrityunjay Tiwari.

Fifteen years ago, Mrityunjay saw three urgent needs in rural Bihar, India: an eye hospital, healthcare workers to staff it, and girls' education. He decided to address all three. First, though, Mrityunjay needed to change the community's attitudes about girls' and women's capabilities.

The answer? Give girls the chance to play soccer!

The sport would be the icebreaker showing the community that girls have the drive and the ability to be high-achievers, just like boys.

Chhaya and Chhavi playing soccer

And that's how Chhaya and Chhavi's eye health education began. With the blessing of their grandmother, the sisters joined the program at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. They played soccer and were given vocational training that ultimately led them to become optometrists!

Orbis supporters helped open the door, and the sisters—and girls like them—use their determination to reach their potential and be a force for good in their communities.

Mrityunjay Tiwari

Founder, Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital

I felt that Akhand Jyoti Eye Hos­pi­tal would become a plat­form of bring­ing big­ger soci­etal change. For us, women are at the core of every­thing we do. And that’s why we start­ed the optom­e­try program.”

Blindness Is a Gender Issue

Giving women and girls like Chhaya and Chhavi the same career opportunities as men and boys is part of gender equity. Another part is providing equal access to eye health care.

Around the world, 1.1 billion people live with vision loss, including blindness. Women and girls make up 55% of these people — that's 112 million more women than men.

Many barriers prevent both women and men from accessing eye health services. However, in many parts of the world, women face additional barriers to accessing eye care that men do not:

Through our programs, we work to address the unequal impact of blindness on women and girls. Our long-term country programs, Flying Eye Hospital projects, and online Cybersight training and mentoring all help provide better access to eye care for women and girls.

#Seeherpotential: Breaking Barriers and Restoring Hope

Chhaya and Chhavi are among many of the graduating optometrists at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. Thanks to Orbis supporters, the power twins smashed gender stereotypes in their community by playing soccer and becoming eye health professionals.

Chhaya found her passion while attending Orbis-supported training on low vision and rehabilitation at Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital. Filled with enthusiasm and inspiration from her experience, Chhaya immediately approached the Akhand Jyoti hospital staff.

Standing proud at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital

She made a case that the hospital should address the rehabilitation needs of low-vision patients. Her idea was so well-received that Chhaya single-handedly set up a low-vision clinic within the hospital within two weeks!

Chhaya screens a patient. Photo taken prior to COVID-19.

Like Chhaya, her twin sister Chhavi also attended Orbis-supported training at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital. Chhavi was the first candidate trained for pediatric counseling. The experience taught her how to build rapport with parents of patients to persuade them to accept vision treatment for their child.

“This training helped me to understand the softer side of counseling which helps to bond with patients,” Chhavi says. “I feel happy when the patient is back in the hospital for surgery after counseling.”

Chhavi counsels a young patient. Photo taken prior to COVID-19.

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary

Twin Sisters, Optometrists, and Soccer Players

Noth­ing gives us more joy than restor­ing the vision of a patient who had lost all hope of ever being able to see again. We are grate­ful to the donors for impact­ing the lives of so many rur­al girls like us.”

Thanks to Orbis supporters, Chhaya and Chhavi had the life-changing opportunity to learn at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi, India.

Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital established the first Orbis-supported Children’s Eye Centers in India.

The Children’s Eye Centers help ensure India’s girls and boys have access to quality eye care for generations to come.

Thanks to Orbis supporters and our strong partnership with Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital and Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, progress is being made to break gender barriers in eye health care.


Will you please fight gender inequality in eye health to help a girl #SeeHerPotential?

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