Hello from India! As I write this, I’m here with our Operation Eyesight team in Hyderabad, where we’re meeting with eye care experts at the LV Prasad Eye Institute. You may know Hyderabad as the place where many Bollywood films are created. In fact, it was a wealthy filmmaker (LV Prasad) who supplied the land for the Institute, which is one of the best eye care research centres in the world.
Hyderabad is a huge city (compared with Calgary, where I live) with all the urban drama, extreme sights and sounds, and contrast between rich and poor that characterize most Indian cities. Leaving the city for the smaller centres can be a relief to the senses, but the contrasts and disparities are no less evident in the countryside.
While in India and other developing countries, I’m often struck by the vulnerability of women, especially those who must fend for themselves. I note that women and children are the focus of this year’s International Development Week (February 5-11). It’s a good time, therefore, to remember that nearly two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls, and in many places, men have twice the access to eye care as women.* In countries with significant poverty, like the places where Operation Eyesight is at work, equal access to eye care could substantially reduce blindness and the problems associated with low vision.
Operation Eyesight’s approach to development is based on the belief that all people, regardless of income, location or gender, should have access to information about eye health and to medical services when they need them. That, we believe, is the key to eliminating avoidable blindness.
I’m reminded of the story of Parvathy, a woman who benefited from the community outreach program of Garnett Memorial Hospital in southern India. Talk about vulnerable! Parvathy’s work as a weaver was her livelihood, but blindness from cataracts threatened her very life. You can read about her in the latest issue of SightLines newsletter on page one.
International Development Week is a time to learn more about life in developing countries and ways to contribute to positive change locally and globally. Speaking from here in Hyderabad, I see women struggling with poverty, but I also see a culture that is rich in ancient tradition as well as modern innovation. Take time next week, if you can, to learn about India and all it has to offer.
Also, stay tuned to Grey Mist Lifting in the weeks ahead for more stories about the ways that international development is changing the world, and how you can help.
* Source: Vision 2020: The Right to Sight