Jessica Shortall, TOMS Director of Sight Giving, joined the TOMS family in 2009. She has been an integral part of helping launch TOMS Sight Giving and a vocal advocate for our Giving Partners that TOMS works with to help restore sight in 13 countries around the world. This World Sight Day, she’s excited to share with you why it’s important to wear your shades inside and #BESHADY. Today, she shares why we’re being shady for gender equality.
In many countries, females aren’t given the same opportunities as men. With the help of Seva foundation, more than half of TOMS-supported sight services are directed toward getting women and girls the care they need.
Arzina is a 30-year-old woman living in Bangladesh. At first glance, she’s different from me in a lot of ways. She and I live on opposite sides of the globe. I have the great good fortune of living in relative material comfort, while she lives in deep poverty. But in hearing her story, I realized that she’s a lot like me, too. I’m only a few years older than her, and we’re both moms (she has three daughters; I have a son and a baby girl). We both think a lot about how to build our families up, and how to give our children the best possible opportunities.
But where Arzina and I truly differ is that, until very recently, she was one of the almost 30 million women and girls in the world living in blindness.
Women and girls make up two-thirds of the world’s blind population, for a number of reasons. Women often have less control over family finances and some families invest in health care only for wage earners — who are predominantly male — rather than those who tend to the home. In addition, many women and girls do not feel safe traveling on their own to seek out eye care.
Arzina started to lose her sight about a year and a half ago. Her cataracts worsened in both eyes, until she found herself incapable of doing most of her daily activities. Her husband had to work and care for the family. She felt that she was a burden to her husband and her daughters, but was afraid to seek out care because she assumed it would be too expensive.
That’s why TOMS chooses Sight Giving Partners that make conscious efforts to close the gender gap in visual impairment. TOMS is proud that more than half of the One for One sight services supported by TOMS Eyewear purchases have gone to women and girls. Every day, our partners proactively seek out women and girls, and break down the barriers to getting them the care they need and deserve. Often, this means providing care free of charge to women and girls who cannot otherwise pay.
Arzina’s life changed when our partner Marium Eye Hospital announced they were conducting an eye camp at the local high school to provide vision screenings and care. Arzina went to the screening, and was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. And that’s where your TOMS Eyewear purchase came in: the purchase of a pair of sunglasses on the other side of the world gave Marium Eye Hospital the resources they needed to restore Arzina’s sight.
The Marium team visited Arzina after her cataract surgery and found that her life is completely transformed.
“After having the surgery…everything has been changed,” Arinza shared. “I was totally inadequate to do my family activities before surgery, but now I’m fully self-dependent. My husband can do his job without any problem. We are quite relaxed now, and no one is thinking of me as a burden any longer.”
Arzina is one less woman living in blindness. And her family – especially her three daughters – will be so much better off for it.
On October 10, join TOMS and #BESHADY for World Sight Day. Help raise awareness for the 2/3 of women and girls around the world living in blindness. To learn more about TOMS Sight Giving and World Sight Day, visit www.toms.com/world-sight-day.