International Women's Day

Each year on March 8, people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day – an opportunity to reflect on progress towards gender equality and what we can do to create a more fair and equitable world. At Orbis, we know that blindness is a gender issue and are committed to alleviating unequal access to eye care.

Globally, 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.

Through our long-term country programs, Flying Eye Hospital projects and online Cybersight training and mentoring we are improving the quality of eye care available to women and girls around the world.

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

Why Is Blindness a Gender Issue?

In many parts of the world gender inequality means women face additional barriers to accessing eye care that men don't:

  • Limited financial resources and time: Finances are often directed first toward other priorities, forcing women and girls to go without. Women are burdened with household and childcare responsibilities, which leaves them with little time to tend to their own needs.
  • Inability to travel and safety concerns: Women often have fewer options for travel than men and are more vulnerable to unsafe situations away from home. Older women may require assistance, which poor families cannot provide.
  • A lack of women eye health providers: For cultural or other reasons, women might not seek care from a male practitioner.
    • 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. [

International Women's Day 2024

A lack of women eye health care providers is a major barrier to access as women may be reluctant to visit male practitioners due to cultural or other reasons.  Globally, women represent only 25-30% of ophthalmologists and 25-45% of professionals-in-training.

In a recent survey of Cybersight users, 30% of women respondents said that they experience challenges that men do not in accessing eye healthcare training.

A female ophthalmologist in Orbis branded scrubs shares her skills with female peers in Mongolia in 2018

Orbis Volunteer Faculty, Dr. Mary O'Hara, shares her skills with female peers in Mongolia in 2018

Improving Access to Training for Women

  • 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, Orbis 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.

  • Orbis is 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.

  • Orbis runs 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. If you would like to help women ophthalmologists overcome additional barriers to eye care training and help more women and girls access quality eye care, you can donate below.

Donate today

Your gift today can help train the next generation of women leaders in eye health.

See Her Potential

In this episode of our video podcast, SIGHTLINES, guest experts Julia Anderson (the CEO of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health) and Dr. Suzannah Bellis (a Clinical Research Fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital) explore the gender disparity in eye health, and discuss how women will play a critical role in the fight against global blindness as we forge ahead in a very different health landscap

SIGHTLINES Episode 6: Women Changing the World

Access to eye care can help a girl see the blackboard in school and thrive in her education, helping to break cycles of poverty. It can help a woman succeed in her career and grow her ability to support herself and her family, opening doors to a brighter future.

We know that by empowering women to access eye care, it will not only help address gender inequalities, but will also have a broader impact on their communities, as well as wider economies.

You can help more women access the eye care they deserve this International Women's Day by donating below.



Close the modal
Sorry there was an error.
Try again