Karachi, Pakistan, 1 December 2016: A global grant funded by the Rotary Club of Liverpool in New South Wales, Australia will provide female optometry students enrolling at the Isra School of Optometry in Karachi, Pakistan much needed on site accommodation. Enabling this living necessity ensures gender equity is kept at the forefront of the optometry program supported by Brien Holden Vision Institute at the school.
Tradition and conservative social views held in Pakistan produce cultural and gender-based sensitivities which impact female student opportunities to study away from home. Due to a limited capacity of segregated living quarters, currently the Isra School of Optometry has to limit their intake of female student candidates.
Campaigned by Professor Brian Layland, Board Chair for the Institute, the Rotary grant will not only enable the immediate need of suitable housing, security and crucial facilities ensuring the continuation of the female student’s university education, but it will also contribute by building the eye health workforce in Pakistan especially those belonging to rural and remote areas of Pakistan.
We consider partnerships to be pivotal to achieving our mission and we have been working with the Isra School of Optometry for five years delivering programs across optometry education, child eye health, and delivering eye health services to the marginalised communities.
The optometry program is aligned with and contributes to the National Eye Health Plan 2014-2019 for Pakistan. Both organisations were involved in extensive consultations with female optometrists surrounding real-life barriers they were experiencing.
“Pakistan has committed to equity of access to education for women on a national level, however this can only be achieved if equal, culturally sensitive and safe education opportunities are made available for girls,” said Sumrana Yasmin, Regional Director, South East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean, Brien Holden Vision Institute.
“Thanks to the generous Rotary grant more girls from remote parts of the country will be able to attend and complete optometry education. Measures such as this help increase access to eye health services for women in rural communities who currently have to travel long distances to access eye care,” she said.
After completion of their education, the female optometrists will have opportunities to work in both public and private sectors providing eye care to communities in the semi-urban, rural and remote Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Access to vision care directly improve quality of lives, and helps break the poverty cycle through increased education and employment opportunities.
Isra School of Optometry strives to promote equal education opportunities and at present there are 72 females (55%) out of total 120 students enrolled in the program. School policy supports provision of scholarships to marginalised students, especially female, allowing candidates from lower socio-economic stratum. Students from the rural areas of Sindh, Baluchistan and Azad Kashmir provinces are benefitting from the school.