Changing the way the world sees.
Campaign for Women and Girls
“Women Changing the Way the World Sees”
Five-year-old Vaishnavi after having her
cataract removed in Bihar, India.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 2
Campaign for women and girls
Women changing the way the world sees.
Over the past 35 years, Orbis International has emerged as a leading global charity
transforming lives through the prevention and treatment of visual impairment and blindness.
With a network of established partners, a global cadre of Volunteer Faculty, a Flying Eye
Hospital and an award-winning online telemedicine platform, Orbis fills a critical healthcare
gap in some of the world’s most remote and war-torn communities. Deploying volunteer
professional eye health teams to 92 countries, training and mentoring local professionals and
community leaders to become catalysts in saving sight in their own communities – this is the
proven model of Orbis – capacity-building – a sustainable solution to addressing the global
Building on this foundation, Orbis looks to tackle a new frontier. Worldwide, women and girls
are at far greater risk for avoidable blindness for both biological and social reasons. With
global blindness set to triple by 2050, women will be disproportionately affected. Consider:
Two out of three children who are blind are girls
Globally, women account for the majority of people (55%) who are vision impaired
Women in many countries face unique barriers to accessing eye care, including
unavailability of transportation, lack of healthcare decision-making power, the
prioritizing of the needs of men, and inability to directly control the financial
resources needed for care
Women fall far behind in uptake of basic eye care. If women received cataract
surgery at the same rate as men, blindness from cataracts would be reduced
worldwide by 10%
Women who are blind or visually impaired frequently experience social exclusion
and abuse, and are more likely to be victims of sexual violence
Angela Moreti, an ophthalmic nurse at the Regional Institute of
Ophthalmology in Trujillo, Peru receives training and guidance from
a member of the Orbis Volunteer Faculty.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 4
Unlocking the potential of
We are calling on global philanthropic leaders to join with us in this historic effort,
embarking on a first-ever $15M global campaign targeted specifically for women and
Donors to this historic campaign will be part of a global first - pioneers in a ‘next wave’
women’s movement with impacts which can change the lives of generations of women.
Our work will focus on six key areas in priority countries in which Orbis works and has
proven networks and expertise.
After repeated bouts of trachoma, Obito’s eyelids had turned inward and
her eyelashes were scratching her eyeball. She received a 20-minute
surgery from Tsehay, an Orbis-trained Integrated Eye Care Worker
known locally as ‘the mother of eyes’.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 6
Eliminating trachoma in Ethiopia
Trachoma is a bacterial infection causing trichiasis (where lashes rub painfully against
the eye). Spread by infected hands or clothing, it is the world’s leading cause of
preventable blindness. At one time a world epidemic, it has been virtually eliminated in
developed countries, but it is still endemic among the poorest of the poor. Women make
up some 70% of those affected due to their role as water-gatherers and caregivers of
infected children. At the same time, women hold the key to preventing further spread,
as they can easily be trained to take the necessary steps, dispense medication, and
educate others. Ethiopia is one of the countries hardest hit, and yet trachoma is
completely preventable with basic training, improved sanitation and antibiotics which
could virtually eradicate it.
Scaling community vision outreach
services in rural communities
Un-operated cataract is the leading cause of blindness globally, and surgery (the only
treatment) is under-utilized by women, especially the elderly. This aspect of the
campaign will scale proven cataract and glaucoma programs in key centers of high
need in countries where Orbis works. The program includes outreach, (with women
themselves trained to act as female ambassadors to promote surgery for women),
community education, and the training of local care providers to perform the relatively
simple cataract operation and offer glaucoma treatment.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 7
of prematurity (ROP)
As healthcare systems improve, and more premature babies survive, a terrible
side-effect of progress appears. Retinopathy of prematurity (an eye disorder caused by
abnormal blood vessel growth in the light-sensitive part of the eyes of premature
infants) is exacerbated when extra oxygen given during birth and in incubators to help
delicate lungs also causes the side effect of immediate, irreversible blindness to a
delicate unformed retina. A country where this epidemic has been keenly felt is
Peru – even though its healthcare system is evolving, its capacity to deliver advanced
eye care hasn’t caught up. Working with other NGOs and medical professionals, Orbis
has developed a now-proven model and training for eliminating ROP which can easily
be layered into neonatal care worldwide. Using Peru as a scalable model, we will bring
this proven program to women and families around the world.
Scaling the community
Vision Centre model
A Vision Centre is an innovative, social enterprise eye care solution that enables
communities to provide high-quality primary eye care services to their own people.
Orbis has successfully established 27 community Vision Centers in Bangladesh, and
50 in India. Staffed and managed by a small team of three local eye health workers,
most often women, a Vision Centre is typically set up in a busy location such as a
market, village square, or place of worship in a rural community.
These self-sustaining local eye health clinics eliminate the need to travel for basic eye
care, which is a key barrier to access for women and girls. The Vision Centre model
presents a transformative opportunity for the development of sustainable eye care
programs. They are run by local people in countries of high need, acting as a catalyst
for not only the empowerment of women, but for whole economies and businesses, as
they create jobs and ensure the eye health of workers who depend on their vision for
productivity and participation. And, with the presence of women staff, women patients
also feel more comfortable and are far more likely to seek eye care services. Our goal
is to amplify this model of success and build 1,000 more Vision Centers.
A premature baby in Vietnam receives one of many vital
eye examinations which are needed in the ﬁrst months of
life to prevent permanent blindness.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 9
Screening for refractive error
among women and girls
Refractive error is the largest cause of visual impairment globally, affecting 13 million
children and 45 million adults, most of whom could see clearly again with just a simple
pair of glasses costing a few dollars. In 2016, Orbis piloted the REACH (Refractive
Error Among Children) program in India, including eye exams in schools, visits from an
eye doctor, provision of prescription glasses, and the training of local volunteers to
administer the program. We have had great success with garment factory workers in
Bangladesh, the majority of whom are women, who increased their productivity by up to
40 per cent. This campaign component will specifically target women and girls for
testing and prescription glasses, and has enormous potential impacts for school
success, confidence and employability.
Training women on a global scale
Building a ﬁrst-of-its-kind women’s network, leveraging our
existing Flying Eye Hospital Training Program and
award-winning Cybersight program.
Created in 2003, Cybersight is Orbis’s innovative telemedicine and real-time
e-consultation platform that allows us to reach eye health professionals in remote,
politically unstable, or conflict-affected regions of the world where a physical presence
is simply not possible.
With advanced online training tools and on-demand access to expert faculty, Cybersight
is a global community of sharing, skills transfer and collaboration that has revolutionized
the way eye health professionals in developing countries access training, improve their
skills, consult on diagnosis and treatment of their patients, and learn from world-leading
Female eye health workers can be particularly effective in reaching out to women with
eye disease, but many suffer from lack of support and community bias, impairing their
effectiveness. Building on the Cybersight platform, this enhanced online education
network will connect women eye health workers with their peers in other parts of the
world who face similar challenges. It will offer training, share knowledge, and build
potential for more women to develop as local healthcare systems leaders.
Campaign for Women and Girls | 10
We cannot continue to minimize the effects of gender inequality. The time is now – a call
for women’s empowerment and an end to gender-based discriminatory practices and
norms. It’s time to fully leverage the priorities and design of our work to more effectively
address the needs of women and girls.
Beyond the immediate impact of saving the sight of generations of women, the ripple
effect of this movement clearly translates into systemic change. Empowerment,
connections to other women around the world, knowledge capture and transfer, jobs,
and leadership roles for women create layers of impact, lifting women out of poverty
and allowing them to reach their full potential. When women are lifted, economies are
We thank you for taking the time to read about our plans and look forward to your
valuable insights as we contemplate this exciting next step.
Changing the way the world sees.
Orbis Canada, 340 College St. Suite 375, Toronto, ON M5T 3A9
Orbis.org | 1.416.413.7925 | [email protected]
Charitable Registration No. 88649 0994 RR0001