On Women’s Day, call to ensure healthcare for them

For many women, getting their health issues addressed is not a priority at all.

ISLAMABAD: In Pakistan and across the world, women and girls face inequalities that increase their risk of diseases, disability, gender-based violence and mortality.

For example, women are more likely to be blind, but men are twice as likely to have access to necessary eye care as women. And for many women, getting their health issues addressed is at the bottom of a long list of challenges and priorities.

On the International Women’s Day on March 8, Sightsavers is calling for all health services to be inclusive and accessible for women and girls, including those with disabilities.

Munazza Gillani, Sightsavers Pakistan’s country director, said: “Some diseases affect more women than men. Women are four times more likely to develop infectious eye diseases than men.” They are also more likely to be blind or have a visual impairment, but much less likely to have access to the eye care they need.

“Without action, women will continue to be left behind in health care, having their health, and chances of education and employment curtailed.”

 On this day, Sightsavers is also celebrating trailblazing women who are going above and beyond to make this happen.

This includes Munazza Gillani herself, who has worked for the organisation for more than 16 years and this time has worked hard for inclusion of women in health services both on demand and supply side.

It also includes Leena Ahmed, Programme Manager for Eye Health and Inclusion, who has an incredible record of executing inclusive eye health projects, has very legitimate findings from the field.

According to her, in rural settings, women are not allowed to go to health facilities unless and until they are accompanied by a male member of family. She is leading work to meet these challenges by providing eye care services at primary level.

Leena said: “Women do tend to be able to access basic eye examination or eye screening services. But when it comes to the surgical services, which involves cost and money, the male [family] member will decide whether it’s of use of spending so much money on a women’s surgery or a pair of glasses. This can badly affect how women can access eye health services because they are dependent on the male members of their family, and they look up to them for decisions on such matters.”

Despite the stereotypes and challenging societal norms, female optometrists in Pakistan are making significant contributions to eye care and public health.

They are actively involved in providing primary eye care services, diagnosing and managing various eye conditions, and raising awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations.

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