Trachoma patient Asegedech, wearing a pink checked shirt, is hugged by Integrated Eye Care worker Tsehay

Blindness Gender Inequality - Women & Girls

Blindness is a gender issue: globally there are 112 million more women than men living with vision loss, including blindness. Below, we explore the reasons behind this injustice and profile some of the women who are doing something about it. After all, a brighter future for women is a brighter future for the planet.

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.

Globally there are 112 million more women than men living with vision loss, including blindness

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Studies have demonstrated lower rates of cataract surgery for women 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

Women and Blindness: the Challenges

Women more at risk of trachoma trachiasis

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.

70% of people affected by blinding trachomatous trichiasis are women

Women and girls carry the burden of care giving for relatives with vision loss

Worldwide, women and girls bear an unfair burden when it comes to household chores and caring for relatives with visual impairment. This has a direct impact on opportunities to access education, employment and income, while simultaneously increasing the risk of contracting a blinding disease at home.

Women who are blind carry a double burden of 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.

What We're Doing

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 using the latest technology, we are able to train more healthcare professionals and amplify the reach of our work across the globe.

  • Cybersight, our online telemedicine and e-learning tool, allows women to access training at a time and location that’s convenient for them. Cybersight helps women eye care professionals to overcome obstacles by providing affordable, convenient ways to advance their career while continuing to fulfil their multiple roles, which often include caregiving responsibilities.

  • In 2021, we worked with Women In Ophthalmology and Seva Foundation to create “Women Leaders in Eye Health” (WLEH), a global virtual space and webinar series for women eye professionals to come together and strengthen their leadership. The WLEH program continues to pick up pace with the introduction of Gender Champions in partner hospitals and the implementation of program funding and leadership structure. More news on this exciting program to follow soon.

  • We are hiring a Gender Equality & Social Inclusion Advisor to help advance the Women Leaders in Eye Health Program and advance gender equality in all eye health programs.

  • We are running a “sandwich” fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology that is specifically designed to be more flexible to meet the needs of caregivers. “Sandwich” refers to how the one-year program is delivered in a “blended” fashion, with portions conducted online via Cybersight taking place before and after in-person training. Under the stewardship of long-term partner Dr. Suma Ganesh, three women took part in 2023.

These exciting offerings are only the beginning, and we know there is so much more to do to achieve gender equity in eye health.

Below are some examples of the gender-focused eye care projects designed to support women and girls:

SDG 5: Our Commitment to Advancing Gender Equality

We know that by committing to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 5 and empowering women to access eye care, it will not only help address gender inequalities but it will also have a broader impact on communities, as well as the wider economy.

If you would like to help women and girls reach their full potential, please consider donating below.

Or, if you would like to learn more about how our work supports the SDGs or are interested in funding any of our sight-saving programs focussed on gender, please email [email protected].

  • Donate now


Orbis Ethiopia Martin Kharumwa 426


Orbis Ethiopia Martin Kharumwa 114


Three children impacted by vision problems in Trujillo, Peru


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