Minufa Khatum 2

Meet The Women Fighting Blindness in Bangladesh

The Singra Vision Center in Bangladesh is a unique place to go for eye care. It’s successfully run by three hardworking and dedicated eye health professionals who are all women in their 20s.

The amazing trio are made up of Minufa, Rumpa and Kalpona – an optometrist, refractionist and an optical dispenser.

The team ensures patients accessing their family-friendly center are screened properly, treated, counseled and referred to the nearest hospital for further treatment.

They encourage women to seek treatment at the center, with many patients reporting barriers when attempting to be referred by men.

Since opening in August 2017, Singra has used the Grameen Social Business Model making it a ‘social business’ whose goal is to promote social needs rather than pursue profit. While the vision center does seek enough revenue to cover its costs it will only seek payment from those that can afford it. Those unable to contribute anything will still receive the same treatment free of charge.

Thanks to the support of our donors, the Qatar Fund for Development and the Grameen Foundation, Minufa, Rumpa and Kalpona can help up to 10 patients a day. We were fortunate meet two of the three women to find out a little bit more about how they are changing lives.

Singra Vision Center 1

The center plays a key role raising awareness of eye health in the community and referring women to hospital for surgery and treatment

Q&A with Minufa Khatum, 24, Singra Vision Center

Orbis: Before receiving your medical training, what were you doing?

Minufa: After completing school, I studied optical dispensing for two years and learned how to provide medicine and spectacles to people. I can also utilize the grinding machine to help personalize glasses for patients.

Orbis: What inspired you to work in the medical field?

Minufa: I wanted to serve my community and I like learning new skills. Since my father passed away, I decided to work to help support my family. By working, I can help support my younger brother’s education.

Orbis: What do you expect to accomplish with this position? Are there other medical training opportunities you are interested in?

Minufa: I would like to pursue additional training opportunities and perhaps even become a trainer. I am also interested in pursuing a government position such as becoming a teacher.

Orbis: Since you’ve completed your training, can you provide examples of things you’ve been able to do and patients you’ve been able to help?

Minufa: I help my colleagues at the vision center with registering clients, conducting blood pressure checks, selling and fixing lenses, taking orders and dispensing medicines. Everyday, we usually sell two pairs of glasses and dispense medicines to patients.

Orbis: What do you feel are still the bigger issues of eye care in the country/local area that need to be addressed?

Minufa: A lot of the community suffer from conjunctivitis, refractive errors and cataract. Since it is so common to have diabetes, we also can help support clients with blood testing to see if they need further care or to be diagnosed.

Q&A with Rumpa Akhter, 26, Singra Vision Center

Orbis: Before receiving your medical training, what were you doing?

Rumpa: I joined Grameen in 2008. I went to school to study for two years, one of which I spent at the LICO hospital learning about refraction and bio-medical engineering.

Orbis: Why did you want to work in the medical field?

Rumpa: I wanted to be self-employed and develop a technical set of skills. I want to help serve all patients, particularly the elderly, to provide the services they need for good eye health.

I would like to continue my training in low vision at the Islamia Eye Hospital and eventually become an optometrist in the future.

Rumpa Akhter 1

Refractionist Rumpa enjoys being self-employed and has hopes of being an optometrist

There is a lack of awareness in the community around eye health and the need to seek treatment to prevent vision impairment and blindness. Often people wait too long to seek care and/or its difficult for them to travel far distances to visit hospitals. It is very common for us to see patients with cataracts. Every two weeks, we refer approximately 50 people to the hospital for cataract surgery.

Rumpa Akhter

Refractionist, Singra Vision Center

Orbis: Since you’ve completed your training, can you provide examples of things you’ve been able to do, patients you’ve been able to help?

Rumpa: I help conduct vision tests, check interocular pressure, and correct refractive error. I can check children’s vision as well.

Orbis: What do you feel are still the bigger issues of eye care in the country/local area that need to be addressed?

Rumpa: There is a lack of awareness in the community around eye health and the need to seek treatment to prevent vision impairment and blindness. Often people wait too long to seek care and/or its difficult for them to travel far distances to visit hospitals. It is very common for us to see patients with cataracts. Every two weeks, we refer approximately 50 people to the hospital for cataract surgery.

Orbis: Is there anything you want to say to the donors that made this project possible?

Rumpa: Yes, we need some additional equipment to help support our work, such as an auto refractor for children.

Rumpa Akhter 2

The eye care professionals can prevent vision loss of up to 10 patients per day

Women make up 55% of the world’s visually impaired population and shockingly, two thirds of children who are blind are girls.

Through the creation of vision centers such as this, we and our partners can alleviate the traditional barriers of transportation or high service costs that keep women from accessing eye care.

Many vision center staff are also female themselves which allows both women and children to feel comfortable in accessing care and most of the centers are both child and family friendly.

Our eye hospital partners are also actively recruiting and supporting the education of female eye care professionals at their training institutes, ensuring the next generation of eye care providers to be gender balanced.

Orbis Bangladesh is committed to employing gender responsive initiatives with all relevant partners and stakeholders.

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