VisionSpring and Varanasi Smart City Limited announced the expansion of the Varanasi Clear Vision Campaign (Ujjwal Drishti Abhiyan) to screen the vision of 1 Lac weavers and textile workers by July 2019. The campaign will extend the working years, productivity and income earning potential for an estimated 65,000 highly skilled weavers who are expected to be identified as needing eyeglasses. The Varanasi Clear Vision Campaign advances the urban vitality and prosperity objectives of the Smart Cities Mission.
Varanasi, a holy city on the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, is home to more than 1 lac weavers who are known for their legendary sarees, which are among the finest in India. Made with gold and silver brocade, and opulent embroidery, these sarees require highly skilled and intricate hand work. Many weavers work under low light conditions in their homes or small factories, which can make it difficult for weavers to see details clearly.
Most weavers master their craft between the prime earning years of age 40 to 45. These years are also when the natural process of aging makes it difficult for eyes to focus on objects held within arms’ length, due to a pervasive condition called presbyopia. A simple pair of non-prescription reading glasses corrects the problem instantly. A recent study, published in The Lancet Global Health, found that reading glasses have the potential to increase workers’ productivity by 22%, and by up to 32% for those over age 50.
To date, VisionSpring has already screened the vision of 20,000 weavers at vision camps held in neighborhoods throughout the Varanasi and surrounding areas. Already, 10,000 people have purchased affordable glasses. Among them, 70% are acquiring their first pair of glasses and are seeing clearly for the first time in their lives. Others are getting glasses with new power lenses that match their current vision correction needs.
The goal of 1 Lac free vision screenings was announced by Mr. Ramesh Chandra Singh, Additional Municipal Commissioner of Varanasi Smart City Limited, and Dr. Jordan Kassalow, Founder of VisionSpring, at an inauguration event. The event took place in conjunction with a large vision camp attended by weavers.
Jordan Kassalow said, “The tradition of saree making in Varanasi goes back hundreds of years; so too does the invention of eyeglasses. For the first time, we are bringing them together so that Varanasi’s master weavers and artisans can see clearly. Clear vision is imperative for maintaining the beauty and high level of craftsmanship for which Varanasi textiles are revered. We are honored to be working with community leaders and the government’s Smart City initiative so that many more people can see to earn and care for their families.”
Mr. Ramesh Chandra Singh, Additional Municipal Commissioner, Varanasi Smart City Limited said, “Ujjwal Drishti Abhiyan (Clear Vision Campaign) is a powerful and impactful initiative launched jointly by Varanasi Smart City and VisionSpring to transform the lives of the legendary Varanasi Weavers. Through this campaign, we will conduct vision-screening for all 1 lac weavers in Varanasi in the coming months. We will be providing high-quality eyeglasses to those who require and help them see clearly. This will have a positive impact on their earning potential and well-being and thus lead to economic growth. The wonder of clear vision will make Varanasi truly smart.”
VisionSpring is the pioneering, international social enterprise accelerating the uptake of affordable eyewear among people who earn less than $4 per day in emerging and frontier markets. Founded in 2001, VisionSpring uncovers latent demand for vision correction; conducts community, workplace and school vision screenings; trains others to do the same; and supplies radically affordable, durable eyeglasses. VisionSpring has sold 4.4 million pairs of eyeglasses, providing vision correction in 43 countries with over 200 NGO, corporate, government and health partners. VisionSpring has been recognized for its innovative work with the Skoll Award; social entrepreneur fellowships from Draper Richards Kaplan, The Aspen Institute, and The Schwab Foundation; and honors from World Bank, Duke University, Fast Company, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. www.visionspring.org
About Varanasi Smart City Ltd.
Varanasi is selected by the government of India under Smart City Mission Phase – 1. Smart City Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with a mission to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable. The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities. Smart City Plan is to be prepared by suggestions of Citizens, Stakeholders and residents regarding city services like 24×7 Electricity and Water supply, Sanitation & Waste Management, Street Lighting, Transportation, Roads/streets/Pedestrian lane, Health, Education, eGovernance, Tech-savvy (Communication, Internet Connectivity), Clean & Green Environment, Old men, Women & Child Security.