What goes into sustainable peace? A pair of eyeglasses to start. Jahnu* had lost his left eye as a child. Growing up in Teok, a small town in insurgency-ridden Assam, India, he made do with limited resources and followed in his father’s footsteps to become a tailor; sewing and stitching with his one good eye. When Jahnu turned 35, he realized that his one good eye was giving him trouble. Making ends meet was a bare necessity and the dodgy vision in his right eye became a threat to his survival.
Sometimes, it is the simple solution that is often overlooked. What Jahnu thought was failing eyesight was in fact, a simple presbyopia which accompanies age. He visited a mobile eye camp by ERC Eye Care and is now working full time using his new pair of reading glasses. Connecting remote, inaccessible areas to optical healthcare, ERC Eye Care provides quality, affordable, accessible and inclusive eye care products and services to under-served populations. It does this through its hub hospitals, vision centers and mobile clinics in parts of Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, in the northeast of India.
In the end, all it took was a simple pair of glasses. But what we take for granted, people such as Jahnu cannot even imagine. Healthcare solutions were neither accessible nor affordable for him and many others like him in the states of Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh which have difficult, mountainous terrain, with low connectivity, high poverty and inequality, and with substantial tribal populations living in remote and rural areas. Crippled by continual threats of insurgency, the people of Assam and Nagaland live with instability, strife, and violence. Between 1992 and 2017, insurgency-related fatalities reported in Assam alone was as high as 8,281.
Apart from bringing quality and affordable healthcare to inaccessible areas, ERC is helping rural youth from marginalized communities to undergo optometrist training, enabling them to build and develop new knowledge and skills. Being equipped with skillsets towards a sustainable future is opening new doors for rural youth, and as a trained vision assistant says:
“Before, I never left the house. Now I go out to a new place every week and meet and speak with different kinds of people to understand their lives. People in the villages respect me now, they come to me with their problems.”
IIX is proud to work with enterprises such as ERC Eye Care who are building sustainable peace in a new way – by helping people find sustainable sources of income, creating new futures beyond the existing state of vulnerability and conflict, and strengthening community ties that make them more resilient to future risks.
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.