Project explores spectacles stigma in India

Sightsavers is working with Cornell University in the US to develop ways of overcoming the stigma which surrounds spectacles in India

05 May 2015 by Emily McCormick

A project which seeks ways of overcoming the stigma that is attached to spectacles by people in India is being led by international development charity Sightsavers. 

Working in partnership with experts at Cornell University in the US, the organisations are developing a business model which can maintain the sustainable delivery of primary eye care solutions to people across India. 

The charity’s technical adviser for market-based and private sector programmes, Anna Gerrard, recently visited the country to lead a consumer insight research into people’s opinions of spectacles which will be used to inform the project, reporting that “local people living in slums spoke about the social barrier to wearing glasses.” 

One of the studies conducted by Sightsavers in Dhaka, Bangladesh highlighted the stigma which surrounds spectacles, with may people reporting being mocked and discriminated against for wearing glasses, and some admitting being called names such as ‘four-eyes’. 

Furthermore, in Karnataka, India, more than half (51%) of young respondents said they thought spectacles were a ‘cosmetic blemish’. 

Reflecting on the research, Ms Gerrard commented: “What’s needed is the ‘Swatch approach’ to eyeglasses – eliminating the negative attributes, while enhancing the functional and style features. By doing this, we then offer consumers a completely different way of valuing glasses as a lifestyle option – slowly moving eyeglasses out of its negative limelight. 

“We are still developing this innovative new product that will offer the urban poor an affordable, fashionable and multi-functional alternative. So watch this space.”

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