update regarding non-profit organization for blind women in yemen…

Alhamdulillah I have been researching and found a center called Al-Aman Organization for Blind Women Care in Yemen. They help women with support from obtaining education to housing, etc… here is a story about them from the Observer..
Written By: Thuria Ghaleb
Sabah Horaish, 28, lost her sight when she was 17 years old. Today, she is a psychological specialist and the secretary general of Al-Aman Organization for Blind Women Care.

“I did not suffer any health problems until I lost my sight,” she said. “I was living normally like other healthy girls and studying in my last year at secondary school. I suddenly got a severe and continuous pain in my head. I was taken to several doctors but they said migraines were nothing out of the ordinary. The migraine continued to get worse and we still had no idea why. In the end, I was in a coma for three months in the hospital. Then, surgery revealed I was suffering from dropsy in my brain,” said, Horaish.

She began seeing the world around her differently. The migraine damaged her optical nerves, making her blind. Moreover, she became unable to walk. “I went to the hospital capable of walking and seeing my own way. But, I left carried in my father’s arms,” Horaish said.

“It was very difficult for me to realize that I had become unable to see anything except darkness, unable to see this world with its shapes and colors. But my mother and father were my sight in this life. They played a very important role, helping me to learn to walk again and get over this difficult period in my life,” she said.

For two years, Horaish did not leave her house. She hoped to be able to see something, even just a letter of the alphabet and to be a productive person in society.

“Then, I heard that it would be possible for me to read and write again, but I did not believe it. I also heard that there was a woman like me, a blind woman, who could help me do this,” she said. “My new life began when I contacted her.” Fatima al-Aakil, who runs the Al-Aman Organization for Blind Women Care, gave me a book in Braille script. I began to touch and use strange shapes for letters instead of the ones that I used to write with before my blindness.”

Horaish again enrolled in secondary school and she passed with excellence. Then, she matriculated in the psychology department in the Faculty of Arts at Sana’a University. She now works as a psychological specialist in an institute affiliated with Al-Aman for educating blind girls. She is also married and has two daughters, Do’aa and Duha.

Despite the happy ending to Horaish’s story, little attention is paid to the increasing number of Yemeni people losing their sight. “Huge numbers of the blind in Yemeni live in very straightened circumstances. There is very little medical help, social support or education available to alleviate and prevent blindness. They won’t go to the doctor to be examined because they think that there is no cure for eye diseases,” said al-Aakil at the first blind women’s festival held in the Yemeni Cultural Center on September 9 – the day which was recently proclaimed National Blind People’s Day in Yemen.

“The organization now offers its services to about 350 blind women and children in different governorates and villages. Depending on the blind person’s circumstances, support may take the form of food, clothes, medicines, education or money.”

Globally, an estimated 40 to 45 million people are blind and 135 million have poor sight, according to 2003 figures. But 80 percent of sight loss can be prevented or cured, says the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, which jointly support a programme called VISION 2020: The Right to Sight.

“According to the Central Statistical Organization, there are 76,000 blind people in Yemen,” said al-Aakil. “But I think that there are more cases. Al-Hodeidah governorate has the highest concentration of  blind people in Yemen, about 27 percent of all blind people in the country, because this governorate suffers from epidemics, and has a high population density.”

Low public awareness of eye diseases in Yemen compounds the problem. “We lived in a remote village in the Raimah area, so my parents resorted to magicians charlatans to cure my eyes. They discovered my blindness when I was two years old but they only took me to see doctors in Sana’a when I turned 20,” said Jamila.

There are several reasons why a person might go blind. One is a hereditary disposition to blindness. Cousin marriage is traditionally common throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region, especially in mainly Muslim countries. The inbreeding that occurs as a result causes new generations to suffer from various hereditary diseases, including ocular ones. Inbreeding is the main reason behind the blindness of most of the girls we interviewed in the organization, who were either born blind or developed a hereditary disease later on. “More than 25 percent of girls are victims of this kind of marriage. You might find five or seven blind children in the same family. Sometimes, you may even find that all children of one family are blind,” said al-Aakil.

Roqaya al-Sum’ooli, 19, is one of five children born blind in her family. “My parents did not know that their marriage caused blindness for their children. They did not visit any doctor to examine our eyes, so they carried on giving birth to more blind children,” al-Sum’ooli said. “People in my village were afraid of sitting next to me, they would run away when they saw me. They saw me as a strange blind person.”

“With Al-Aman my conditions completely changed. Firstly, no one in the village paid people like us any attention. I always sat at home, and wanted to go to far off places by myself, like others but I could not. I tried to help my mother as much as I could,” said Hind al-Harbi, 18, one of three blind victims of cousin marriage. “Now, I have become like any normal healthy girl. I will try to get my rights. The organization has given me confidence and the independence to do everything I want. I hope to be a lawyer in the future to achieve rights for the oppressed.”

Injuries are another reason causing blindness for many children and adults. Naseem Ali, 19, was hit in the eye by her brother’s catapult. “I lost my sight immediately after the stone hit my eye. The other eye is healthy, but its sight gradually decreased. When my blind eye suffered pain, the other one also suffered,” she said. “I had three operations on my eye but to no avail. All that surgery gave me nothing but pain for three years. So, I am now afraid of having more operation on my healthy eye.”

Qefaya al-Khadami, 19, is the victim of a work injury. “My eye was injured by a stick when I was cutting wood into pieces. My injured eye watered for five days. I did not tell anyone about it because I thought that it would recover. I told them when I realized that my sight in this eye began to go and I noticed something white in it,” said al-Khadami.

Moreover, in Yemen the blind have a more difficult life than in developed countries, not least of which is the derision and scorn of others. Many prefer to stay at home and to live with their own thoughts and feelings, avoiding contact with others. “I thank God for helping me to join this organization and leave my village. In my village, I did not go outside and I always sat at home. But my two blind brothers were always subject to people’s remarks,” said Anhar Hassan, 14, one of three blind children.

The Al-Aman Organization for Blind Women Care was established to counter this stigma for the blind, to take blind women out of their dark corners and provide them with a dignified life. Al-Aman was the first national association to concern itself with blind women and advocate their rights. Moreover, the association represents blind Yemeni women on the national, regional and international occasions.

Click to see a video interview from babalyemen.com about blindness in Yemen insha’Allah…


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