Women-Led Green Vision Centers: Meet an eye health hero

March 8 is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to reflect on the progress made toward gender equality and highlight what Orbis is doing to create a fairer and more equitable world. With 112 million more women than men living with vision loss, including blindness, we know there is still work to be done to #BreaktheBias in eye health.

Women across the globe face additional barriers to accessing eye health services. Lack of access to household finances, travel concerns, extra childcare, extra household responsibilities, plus the reluctance to get treated by male health practitioners are just some of the additional obstacles women face when seeking eye care.

To help tackle this, we are collaborating with partners in Bangladesh to create Women-Led Green Vision Centers. These women-friendly, solar-powered centers are designed to remove these extra barriers, as well as ensure the lights stay on during power cuts.

Being led by women, these centers make it easier for other women to seek care. They also empower women in the community through job creation and by increasing their financial independence.

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 free or reduced-cost care. And as these vision centers are community-based, it means women unable to travel long distances on their own (due to safety concerns or being time-poor) are still able to access care.

The centers also run on solar power, a solution that is environmentally friendly and helps to overcome challenges caused by frequent power outages, ensuring that eye care remains uninterrupted regardless of access to electricity.

The wonderful Nurun Nahar Aktar started working at the Char Alexander Vision Center in Bangladesh in 2022. She takes pride in providing eye care to mostly female patients and being empowered to make a living for her family through this sight-saving work.

With few medical facilities available for women locally and no eye hospital within an 80km radius, female patients are always delighted to be treated by Nurun and feel extremely comfortable in her presence.

"It is a women-friendly vision center with mostly female patients coming here. Women and girls feel very comfortable sharing their problems with me, and I am able to provide treatment cheerfully" Nurun tells us. "There are hardly any medical centers here and medical centers for women are almost non-existent, so they are extremely happy to come here and find me. Often, they tell me that." Nurun added.

Nurun is ensuring brighter futures for women and girls in her community

Each Women-Led Vision Center handles eye screenings, refraction testing, spectacle distribution, teleconsultation, referrals, and follow-ups. For patients with conditions that require surgery, Nurun refers them to our partner hospital.

She tells us: “Patients come here with many problems and if I find any critical patients among them, I offer them treatment through teleconsultation with a doctor at Mazharul Haque BNSB Eye Hospital. And if patients have even more severe problems such as cataracts or ocular injuries, I will refer them to this hospital for surgery.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of people like Nurun, together with the support of our amazing donors and partners, we’re able to remove the traditional barriers that stop women and girls from accessing quality eye care and help create a world where women and girls can reach their full potential.

"Patients are extremely happy with the treatment by me and our vision center. My heart fills with joy when they call me “Doctor.” I share the money that I earn from this job with everyone in my family" Nurun tells us.

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 additional Women-Led Green Vision Centers.

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You can help more women access quality eye care this International Women’s Day.

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