The Power List 2021 – Power List
Country Program Manager for Bangladesh at The Fred Hollows Foundation, Bangladesh
As her nominator put it: “Zareen Khair has over 30 years of experience in global health, spanning from eye health, adolescent reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, behavior change communication, and research. She has degrees in sociology, as well as a PhD in anthropology. In addition, Zareen has had the opportunity to work for national and international organizations focusing on women and vulnerable groups.
Since 2008, Zareen has worked in Bangladesh, where she serves as the country manager for The Fred Hollows Foundation, focusing on cataract, refractive error, and diabetic retinopathy. She oversees over 32 districts with a population of more than 50 million and breaks barriers in empowering women to take care of their eye health. Zareen is resolute on breaking through cultural norms and deeply entrenched superstitions that often deter individuals from seeking healthcare in Bangladesh. She has ardently stated that the implications of women regaining their eyesight are not only in boosting their self-confidence and health, but also in restoring their work productivity and subsequent empowerment in society.
To increase eye care services and awareness, Zareen mobilized eye health screenings and care for children in schools, where education and eye health can be implemented at an early age. Teachers and principals are also educated on how to approach these screenings. She has also worked in up-skilling maternal workers with eye care skills so they are able to screen mothers and provide eye care advice. Zareen has worked to ensure that women’s needs are met when receiving an eye-check-up, including segregated areas for check-ups and nursing facilities for mothers.
Additionally, Zareen and her team have introduced special women’s only screening days such as Women’s Day. These strategies have also been applied to female garment factory workers, where Zareen and her team found that six out of 10 workers were suffering from eye health problems. She took on the difficult task of creating a dialogue with the garment factories to help them better understand that the productivity of their workers would increase with proper eye care and clearer vision. A proper eye health program can be beneficial for everyone involved.
In recognition for her impactful and inspirational work aimed at reducing the gender gap in eye care in rural Bangladesh, Zareen received the L’OCCITANE Sight Award for Innovation. Through the successful creation and administration of her program, women and children across Bangladesh have benefitted in greater access to eye health care and opportunities that empower and change their lives.”