Maria Helena FilipeMaria Helena Filipe Duzenta is the administrative secretary of the Banco d’Óculos of Vilankulos, the first optical workshop in Eastern Africa managed entirely by women. Maria Helena has worked there since its opening in November 2016. The optical workshop, concieved and founded by Eyes of the world and managed by the women’s association AMODEVI, allows the rural community to access optical care by distributing glasses at a very low cost or even at no cost depending on the level of poverty.

What is AMODEVI?

It is an association that aims to accelerate Vilankulos’ development and that carries out primary care home visits: We are 21 people, of which 16 are women and 5 men.

When was the Banco d’Óculos established?

The Banco d’Óculos was established in 2016 as a result of the collaboration between AMODEVI, the Rural Hospital of Vilankulos, the Provincial Directorate of Health and Eyes of the world: It was created to address the lack of treatment for refractive errors—one of the main avoidable blindness causes— in the area.

How many people work at the Banco d’Óculos?

Two people: a manager and a glasses technician: Nonetheless, six women were trained to work at the Banco d’Óculos: In that manner, if a worker leaves the workshop she can be replaced.

Could you describe a typical day at the Banco d’Óculos?

We start our day at 7.45 am by cleaning the workshop. We open for business at 8 am—the manager welcomes the customers and the technician gets the equipment ready. Every day, we process the orders and do an inventory of materials. After receiving their glasses, clients visit the optometrist in order to confirm the quality of the glasses received. We also prepare a monthly report for the hospital and Eyes of the world.

How has the Banco d’Óculos affected your life?

It completely changed my life, as it increased both my education level and my household income. Furthermore, the association gained reputation and it even receives some funding to increase its activities and help at the hospital through the Banco d’Óculos.

What is the Banco d’Óculos impact on the area?

It reduces the distance required to obtain a pair of glasses, which facilitates access to refractive errors correction. It is the first sustainable optical workshop in the province.

Moreover, the optical workshop has a positive impact against gender bias—as it is managed by women, we are showing society that we, women, can have a positive impact on the area’s development.

How would you evaluate the support received by Eyes of the world?

I would make a positive evaluation. Eyes of the world helped AMODEVI grow, it helped us raise awareness on sight problems and it helped the people understand that blindness isn’t necessarily irreversible. Eyes of the world also aided the development of the municipality of Vilankulos by facilitating access to glasses that could not be bought here.