Each year at this time, the world takes a moment to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women with International Women’s Day on March 8. This day is not about one single country, group or organization – it belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. It’s a day to honor those women who are making a difference in the world around us.
As a woman, I find it interesting that a blog about women’s rights, empowerment, and successes is one of the most difficult for me to write each year. Perhaps it’s due to my lifelong geography and family of origin. I grew up in the United States, and though I have lived here my entire life, my father’s military career caused us to move often during my formative years. When I was young, my family often struggled financially to stay afloat, yet I never personally felt the affliction of lack of access to healthcare or education that many women around the world face each and every day. In my life, the cycle of poverty that could have been was broken as a result.
Globally, many girls are denied the same human rights as their male counterparts. As a result, millions of girls are left behind – unable to fully access healthcare, education and the future that could be theirs. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that two-thirds of the world’s blind population are women. According to another study, women are 40 percent less likely to utilize eye care services than men; and in some parts of the world, if girls are blind or significantly vision impaired, it is almost impossible for them to access education. This disparity creates a cycle so vicious that we must all shout it from the rooftops that a child’s gender should have no bearing on access to health, education, or future opportunities.
Today, when it comes to gender disparities related to vision health, there is little to no attention on this topic. According to the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, 14.4 million American women ages 18 and older reported experiencing significant vision loss and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that over the course of their lives, American women are at greater risk of vision loss than men. Worldwide, when women account for 55 percent of the vision impaired, it’s a discussion that deserves a closer look.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Press for Progress – and press forward, we must. By bringing awareness to this inequality, we can help break the vicious cycle of lack of education that leads to poverty that leads to limited access to affordable healthcare. Together we must develop clever, innovative solutions to the obstacles women and girls face when accessing vision care, while ensuring vision is seen as a healthcare imperative. Together we can be the impact that leads to progress!