Patient Anwara during an eye exam at a women-led Green Vision Center in Bangladesh

Inside women-led green vision centers

At Orbis, we recognize that women and girls disproportionately bear the burden of avoidable blindness. One of the ways we're tackling this issue is by creating women-led green vision centers – a network of community-based eye care centers that are improving access to eye care, and empowering women in underserved communities.

Blindness Is a Gender Issue

Anwara lost her vision to cataracts.

Women make up 55% of the world’s visually impaired population and shockingly, two-thirds of children who are blind are girls. That's 112 million more women than men who live with vision loss or blindness.

Around the globe, women face additional barriers to accessing healthcare. Access to household finances and the ability to travel are often more difficult for women, alongside shouldering the vast majority of childcare and household responsibilities, making free time a scarce commodity.

Men also currently make up around 70% of all ophthalmologists globally, providing an extra barrier to access for women who, for cultural or other reasons, would be reluctant to seek care from a man. Globally, women represent only 25-30% of ophthalmologists and 35-45% of professionals-in-training, few of whom are in low- and middle-income countries.

Low literacy rates due to women and girls’ restricted access to education impede their ability to know how or where to access the care they need.​

What Are Women-Led Green Vision Centers?

Women-led green vision centers are designed to overcome many of the barriers mentioned above, and ramp up access to eye care! Women will receive care from female health workers in their local communities without the need to travel long distances. The centers are even subsidized for those unable to afford the costs.

The centers are an innovative approach that not only improves the quality of eye health in communities that have traditionally lacked access to care, but they also operate with sustainability at the forefront.  

By being women-led, the centers address a variety of traditional barriers for women and girls. Orbis trains women-led management teams to run the centers. This is important because many women are more likely to seek eye care for themselves and their children when it is administered by other women. It also empowers women in the community through job creation and increasing their financial independence.

Watch all about our women-led green vision centers

The centers also directly address additional barriers to care that women face such as lack of finances, free time, or safety concerns. The women-led green vision centers are subsidized for those unable to afford care, ensuring women and girls without access to financial resources can still receive care for free or at a reduced cost.

As these vision centers are community-based meaning women who can't travel long distances on their own (due to safety concerns or having limited free time due to household, childcare, or other responsibilities) are still able to access care.

Many centers are located in regions with frequent power outages, but each women-led green vision center runs on solar power. This is not only environmentally friendly but it helps to ensure that eye care is consistently available to women and girls when they need it.

The family-friendly hubs are also equipped with services that make accessing eye healthcare more comfortable for women with childcare responsibilities because they house dedicated breastfeeding corners and play areas for children.

Each one delivers eye screening, refraction testing, spectacle distribution, teleconsultation, referrals and follow-ups. They are not restricted to women and girls, men and boys are also able to access them.

Meet Some Wonderful Women and Girls

For International Women's Day 2023 we profiled some of the staff and patients at our Women'Led Green Vision Centers in Bangladesh.

What's Next?

So far, Orbis has helped establish 36 community-based vision centers in Bangladesh, each one serving around 100,000 people. Four of these are women-led green vision centers. With the help of Orbis supporters and partners in Bangladesh, we plan to develop a further 100 community-based vision centers and five more women-led green vision centers.

Through projects like these, we and our partners can alleviate the traditional barriers that keep women from accessing eye care, and pave the way for more fulfilling futures!

But we can't do this alone. We need your continued support to keep breaking down barriers, and reach more women and girls with quality eye care. Will you help us?

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Help us empower women across the world with eye care

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