Sightsavers from the field

“Now we can get the help we need”

In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Right to Health project worked with transgender communities to remove the barriers they face when accessing inclusive eye health services.

March 2022
A large group of transgender women pose for a photo.

International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March celebrates transgender people and raises awareness about the work that still needs to be done to ensure that all transgender people are treated equally.

As part of Sightsavers’ Right to Health inclusive eye project, which ran from 2018 to 2021, we supported transgender communities in Pakistan and Bangladesh to access eye care services. The project aimed to reach marginalised communities that have traditionally been unable to access services due to discrimination or barriers such as low income.

To reach these people, Sightsavers implemented outreach work to build trust with the communities. This was essential as many transgender people shared stories of not being treated fairly when using health care services, which caused many to neglect their health.

“Transgender people do not go to hospitals, either government or private hospitals, because people make fun of them,” said Rabi, the president of the transgender community in Quetta, Pakistan.

Once a relationship was established with the communities, Sightsavers held eye camps where transgender people could access inclusive health care services without facing discrimination.

Watch the video below to see our work in action at an eye camp in Pakistan.

A doctor conducts an eye sight test.

What was the Right to Health project?

Funded by the UK government through UK Aid Match, the programme focused on restoring and protecting sight, and ensuring that health services are accessible for people with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

More about the project

Patients who attended the camps were able to have their eyes examined and receive treatment. As cost is often a barrier to health care for marginalised communities, all medicines were provided free of charge. Education also played an important role in helping patients understand how to prevent future eye problems and how to seek help.

In Pakistan, the camps for the transgender community also offered patients the opportunity to have their blood sugar level tested, their blood and eye pressure checked, and to receive their free COVID-19 vaccine.

Inclusion training for health care workers was another key element of the Right to Health project. After attending eye camps, patients were often referred to local hospitals for treatment, so it was essential that everyone attending felt welcome. The training not only focused on inclusion but also raised awareness about the needs of patients with disabilities.

“At the Marium Eye Hospital, we don’t experience any obstacles.”

An eye health worker shines a torch into Bristy's eye during an eye exam.
Bristy gets her eyes tested at an eye camp in Kurigram, Bangladesh. © Sightsavers/Reza Shahriar Rahman.

During the programme’s evaluation process, we spoke to members of the transgender communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan about their experiences accessing eye care through the Right to Health project.

A member of a transgender community in Bangladesh said: “Although the government recognises us, people don’t give us proper respect. But the Marium Eye Hospital gives me the chance to be respected, and not only me, but also our all-transgender group, so I’m very pleased with them.

“All the staff were very helpful and gave us proper facilities. When we go to other hospitals for our other physical problems, we can’t get proper respect. But in this hospital, we don’t feel there are any obstacles and we get the proper help we need.”

A member of a transgender community in Pakistan shared a similar experience: “All the services at the hospital were very helpful. We didn’t have to wait for a long time. It was a fast way to consult doctors and be treated well. We were offered tea and food, and medicines were provided. The hospital staff were very friendly. All the support staff, including guards, paramedics and doctors, were very kind to us.”

Alongside our work with the transgender communities, the Right to Health project also focused on ensuring that everyone can access eye care services without facing barriers or discrimination, helping to build a world where all people can access vital health services.

“All the support staff, including guards, paramedics and doctors, were very kind to us.”

Learn about our work in Pakistan and Bangladesh

The Right to Health project

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