Sightsavers fighting for access to health care for all

 Sightsavers fighting for access to health care for all

Millions of women across the world are unable to access the healthcare they need and participate fully in society.

This International Women’s Day, Wednesday 8 March, international development organisation, Sightsavers is calling for all health services to be inclusive and accessible for women and girls, including those with disabilities. Sightsavers is also celebrating the pioneering women who are fighting to make this happen.

Women like ophthalmic nurse Brenda Muyabala, 40, born in Mpika, who is the only female health worker on Sightsavers’ inclusive eye health project. The project, which aims to ensure no one is left behind in eye health care, is funded by People’s Postcode Lottery.

Women are more likely to be blind or have visual impairment and limited or poor access to comprehensive eye health as compared to men.

Some of the barriers women face in accessing these comprehensive eye health services include long distance to facilities, their role as primary care givers in the home as well as reliance for permission to access health care services from other family members.

Brenda works hard to address these inequalities. She says: “My greatest achievement was to help establish eye care services in Muchinga Province, and most constantly knocking on the doors of influential leaders like the Members of Parliament, to seek their support for the needed eye care in the province’’. She added ‘’ in order to reach more women we make sure that our timings for screenings and surgical are not during the planting season as most women wont come, they will be going to attend to their fields. We also make an effort to reach the women in the markets or set up community screening outreaches in areas where they will be able to easily access rather than having to walk long distances. These women are home makers so they don’t want to move very long distances to access eye care services as there wont be anyone to take care of their homes. When these services are near then can easily access them and get back to their roles of being care givers’’

Brenda chose to specialise in ophthalmic nursing because every child, woman and man experiences eye problems, and she felt it will take her involvement and care to render the much-needed service in her community to help prevent avoidable blindness.

She was privileged to extend her working experience in the launch of Nakonde vision Centre, Mpulungu Vision Centre and post launch to Liteta Vision Centre. This hard working woman has won three awards in eye care from Vision Aid Overseas and three from One Sight Foundation, as the most supportive in eye care. In 2021, she and her team won the most performing eye clinic in Muchinga Province and in 2022, Best Performing Eye Clinic in Zambia.

Brenda continues: “My inspiration comes from these women in eye care: Dr Lilian Musonda, Peadiatrician Ophthalmologist at Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital; Phales Samboko Mungule, Country Manager One Sight Essilorluxottica Foundation; Kaluba Lombe, Project Manager, Sightsavers International, and Kaunda Kapungwe, Operations Manager, One sight Essiolorluxottica Foundation.”

Sightsavers Country Director, Glenda Mulenga says “It is vital that we all work together to make sure all women and girls have access to proper healthcare..

“Without action, women will continue to go blind in greater numbers than men andcontinue to have their contribution to education and employment curtailed.

“There are many ways in which women are excluded from healthcare. Women with disabilities are three times more likely not to access the healthcare they need, compared to men without disabilities.”

Sightsavers works with partners across Africa and Asia to dismantle the barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing adequate health care and to promote the right to health for every individual, whilst challenging negative stereotypes. We also campaign so women and girls can exercise their right to get an education, go to work and vote.

Alice Nachilembe

Alice Nachilembe is a Journalist who yearns for a better country with leaders being accountable to their mandate without oppressing the governed.