Today we mark International Women’s Day, a day that encourages all of us to stand up for the empowerment of all women and girls worldwide and to work towards a more gender inclusive world. The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is Be Bold for Change, a theme which urges us to reflect on the changes that we would like to see in the world in regards to gender equality and inclusion.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) estimates that “close to two-thirds of the world’s blind are women” and this increased burden of vision loss is heavily related to negative attitudes and discrimination that women and girls regularly face because they are female and because they have a disability.
Blind and partially sighted women and girls are more likely to be marginalised and disadvantaged than blind and partially sighted men and boys and they are more likely to be discriminated against than sighted women and girls. On average, they have less access to education, affordable healthcare services, employment opportunities, and experience isolation at higher rates than blind or partially sighted men. This is true even within the blindness community. For example, most organizations of and for the blind are led by men, and there are far fewer female Executives and Board Presidents.
“All of us working to defend the rights of blind and partially sighted people must also work to ensure that blind and partially sighted women have the skills needed and are offered the opportunities to take on senior roles within our own blindness organizations,” said Dr. Penny Hartin, CEO of WBU. “In my own case, as a Canadian woman with vision loss, I had access to education and was afforded the necessary opportunities, but many of these same opportunities are not available to women in the developing world,” she explained.
For this International Women’s Day, the WBU calls for all of us to prioritise the rights of blind and partially sighted women and to work towards changing the negative attitudes and discrimination that blind women face daily. They must have full access to essential services, employment opportunities and to the vital information that they need in order to participate fully in all aspects of life, the same as everyone else does.
“Women and girls who are blind or partially sighted must be empowered to realise their full rights, both as women a nd as human beings,” added Dr. Hartin.
To learn more about how you can help end discrimination against women and girls who are partially sighted, please visit the WBU website.