Iconic photographer Rankin, working with six world-renowned make-up artists, has created a series of striking portrait photographs to highlight the reasons why two thirds of blind people in the world are women. The campaign by development charity Sightsavers International has been launched for World Sight Day (8 October) to raise awareness of the plight of these women, 90% of whom live in developing counties.
The make-up artists involved are: Michelle Campbell, Linda Ohrstom, Ayami, Eli Wakamatsu, Mary Greenwell and Caroline Saulnier, whose work is typically seen on catwalk models or the cover-girls of glossy magazines. They were commissioned by the charity Sightsavers to expose – through the medium of make-up – the barriers that mean many women across the world don’t have access to eye tests, glasses, medication or surgery, something typically taken for granted by women in the UK.
Women living in developing countries may not seek examination and care because of cultural, geographical, and gender role-related factors. For example women may be unable to travel to a medical facility without a male relative, or they may be unaware of services provided due to high levels of illiteracy. Cost is also an issue, with women often not being in control of the family finances and therefore unable to elect to pay for treatment. There are now over 20 million women worldwide who are needlessly blind as a result of them being last in line for such medical care in the developing world.
The cost of your mascara could save someone’s sight
For £5, less than the average cost of a tube of mascara, Sightsavers, which works in over 30 developing countries to prevent and cure blindness and to support those who are irreversibly blind, is able to provide simple surgery to restore a woman’s sight. This fact inspired Michelle Campbell to create her shocking design, incorporating the eye-seeking flies which spread trachoma – a blinding disease linked to extreme poverty and poor sanitation. Trahoma is significantly more common in women than men. Traditional gender roles still carried out by women such as being the main childcare providers, mean they are far more prone to infection from young children, who are the main source of infection in the community.
Rankin, who has worked on a previous campaign with Sightsavers, commented: “I can’t imagine what it must be like to be blind and I can’t even begin to comprehend the distress it causes. What is most upsetting is that so much is treatable, and people suffer unnecessarily. With so many women affected by blindness, the work of Sightsavers is of vital importance. They are reaching people who often have no access to help, and taking the inequality out of treatment.”
To view the full series of Rankin photographs and learn more about what Sightsavers is doing to help combat the burden of blindness carried by women visit www.sightsavers.org/rankin