24 October 2003
The Fred Hollows Foundation
Seeing is Believing - Sustainability - Issue 8
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Feature: Supporting sustainability

Sustainability, as a core philosophy in The Fred Hollows Foundation’s programs, was the theme of this year’s International Management Group (IMG) meeting, held in Sydney last month.

At the International Management Group meeting!

Photo: A global organisation! Participants at the International Management Group meeting. Photo courtesy of Peter Carrette.

Read more about sustainability

Profile: Strength in Dr Rubina Gillani

Dr Rubina Gillani is a strong woman with a kind spirit. Her passion for The Foundation's program in Pakistan has meant many sacrifices and challenges, but her commitment to the program is borne out of her vision for the future, which she hopes will be free of avoidable blindness.

For this reason she sees sustainability as the most important aspect of The Foundation's work in the country she loves.Dr Rubina Gillani

Photo: Dr Rubina Gillani, The Foundation's Country Manager in Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Prentice.

Speaking at The Foundation's IMG meeting this month in Sydney, Dr Gillani stressed both the importance of sustainability and The Foundation's role as a development organisation.

“Our biggest challenge is to remain a development organisation which does not just provide charity. As a development organisation we must continue our work towards sustainability within communities. This takes time but we want to see changes that are development focused. That is the only way it will work.”

Dr Gillani is a medical doctor and public health specialist. Her role as Country Manager, which she began in 1998, means there is a lot of managerial work to do but Dr Gillani still sees herself as a 'field worker'.

"To be a country manager honestly means that you need to be a negotiator, you need to be a mentor, you need to be an architect, you need to be a fighter and a debater."
Dr Rubina Gillani being interviewed at radio 4EB in Brisbane
Photo: Dr Gillani being interviewed by Asad Basit at Radio 4EB in Brisbane. Dr Gillani places great importance on educating and working with communities. Dr Gillani visited Brisbane before arriving in Sydney for the IMG meeting. Photo courtesy of Sue Larsen.

Dr Gillani spends half of her time in the office and the other half travelling extensively throughout Pakistan. Often she needs to travel up to twelve hours to get to a remote community. During this time she does most of her observing; of women and children and of the poverty apparent throughout the country.

The Foundation has been working with local blindness prevention agencies in Pakistan since 1997, such as The Pakistan Institute of Community Ophthalmology (PICO) and the Khyber Eye Foundation. In 1998 a situational analysis was undertaken by Dr Gillani to determine the prevalence of blindness in Pakistan.

The majority of Pakistan's 140 million people live in rural and remote areas with limited access to health services, including eye care facilities, which are predominantly based in urban centres. There is a wide gap between the rich and the poor in Pakistan.

"Reaching the population of Pakistan is not easy," said Dr Gillani. "It is also very hard to change attitudes. The Foundation has come out with a multi-pronged approach. We have trained the doctors, held eye clinics, used accredited facilities and introduced quality into the recipients perspective...That has been challenging."

Approximately 12 million people live with blindness in Pakistan and cataract accounts for the majority of cases.

The Foundation's current four year program in Pakistan, the Pakistan-Australia District Eye Care Program, through funding from AusAID (the Australian government's agency for international development) commenced in 2001. The program operates in the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North Western Frontier Province.

Now in its second year, the main objective of the program is to increase the rate of modern cataract surgery and to provide access to affordable and quality eye care for the poorest of the poor. Training and supply of much needed equipment are two of the major issues which are continuing to be addressed; to date over 100 surgeons have been trained in modern cataract surgery.

The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce the number of people living with cataract blindness throughout the four provinces. More than 60,000 people have had their sight restored through the program. Earlier this year, the one millionth Fred Hollows intraocular lens was implanted into the eye of Zubaida Bibi, a Pakistani woman living in Lahore with her family of seven children.

"I can confidently claim that The Foundation has revolutionised eye care in Pakistan," said Dr Gillani.

Dr Gillani is crucial to The Foundation’s program. Without her determination, strength, knowledge and ability to 'get the job done', the success of the program so far would not have been possible.

Her commitment was evident when she recently turned down the offer to become Health Minister for the North Western Frontier Province. She is now an adviser to the government but can't leave The Foundation's program; she's too determined to make a difference in tackling unnecessary blindness and to ensure that in the future the problem doesn't persist.

In a male dominated society, Dr Gillani is taking a different approach to breaking through the barriers. "It's an ambitious project. I being a woman..." said Dr Gillani. "Besides doing my job I feel that in a country like Pakistan where it is very different and conservative...I'm working towards reducing cataract blindness rates and am also working towards the cause of women."

Dr Rubina Gillani with Pakistani community members in Brisbane
Photo: Dr Gillani with Pakistani community members, Mrs Sadia Khan and Mrs Yasmin Ali, in Brisbane. As an example of a woman shining in a male dominated society, Dr Gillani speaks with Pakistani women as much as she can, to highlight the importance of womens' opportunities to make a difference. Photo courtesy of Sue Larsen.

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Development: Celebrating World Sight Day!

On World Sight Day this month blindness prevention organisations around the world, including many of The Foundation’s in-country partners, held activities to raise public awareness of blindness issues. The main goals of World Sight Day this year was to raise awareness of the basic human right of eye care.
World Sight Day in Vanuatu

Photo: Vanuatu's Director of Health, Myriam Abel (right); Vanuatu Country Manager, Dr John Szetu (middle); Vision 2020 Coordinator - Western Pacific, Dr Richard Le Mesurier and Director of Health Administration and Planning, Maturine Tary, signing the 'Global Declaration of Support' for the elimination of avoidable blindness on World Sight Day. Photo courtesy of Georgia Noy.

Read about World Sight Day

Australian photographers 'tell a thousand words'

The Foundation offers a big congratulations to Australian photographers Sandy Scheltema (winner) and Peter Carrette (finalist) for their success in the international photographic competition ‘Visions of Children’.

One of Peter Carrette’s entries in the Vision 2020 photographic competition - a blind Cambodian child at Krousar Thymey (which means ‘the new family’), a blind and deaf school in Cambodia which Peter supports. Photo courtesy of Peter Carrette.

Find out about the competition!

Special offer: Gift cards for you!

We’re not going to make this month’s special offer too hard for you! Just tell us what you think about sustainability and we’ll send you a set of The Foundation's ‘I can see clearly now’ gift cards – featuring photographs by Sandy Scheltema and Peter Carrette!
Lasela Polevia in Samoa

Lasela Polevia in Samoa after her sight restoring surgery. This photo is one of five gift card designs on offer to you! Photo by Sandy Scheltema.

Get your gift cards!

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If you like reading Seeing is Believing each month why not forward it on to your family, friends or work colleagues? It's a simple thing you can do to help us out - the more people that know about The Foundation's work the better!

Thank you!

Thank you!

61 year old Sonam Tsultrim in Nepal. To have her cataracts removed, she walked for five days and then caught a bus for the 500km trip to Kathmandu. Photo courtesy of Anne Crawford.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Sustainability is a broad and complex issue which is the focal point of The Foundation's development programs. Would you like to know more about what sustainability means and how The Foundation approaches it?

Click here to find out!

What's NEW on our website

* Read more about our approach to sustainability
* Find out more about our program in Pakistan
* Read more about our IMG meeting activities
* Check out where we work around the world
* Read our latest news and events
* Contact us

* Buy or sell merchandise for The Foundation

The Miracle Club
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