Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary are twin sisters and optometrists breaking gender barriers and saving sight in India

Twins, Optometrists and football players: #VisionaryWomen breaking gender barriers

Twin sisters Chhaya and Chhavi are breaking gender barriers. They are #VisionaryWomen who are saving sight and paving paths for girls in India. How did they do it? In part, by playing football! Discover how Orbis supporters help elevate women and close the gender gap in blindness.

Visionary Women of Orbis

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary never dreamt they’d have a rewarding, professional career. Restricting attitudes about what women can and cannot do are prevalent in many communities around the world. In these places, girls and women do not have the same opportunities as their brothers and fathers.

The twin sisters were raised by their grandmother in a small village in Bihar, India. They had no electricity, no hospital, and no drivable roads. The girls walked 3 miles to and from primary school every day.

Soon school would end for them, and they would have to work at small jobs to help the family.

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary are twin sisters and optometrists breaking gender barriers and saving sight in India

#VisionaryWomen of Orbis: Twin sisters Chhaya and Chhavi are dismantling gender stereotypes and fighting blindness.

Twins Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary

Our expec­ta­tion from life was not much. Grand­moth­er bare­ly made enough mon­ey for the fam­i­ly. Two square meals in a day was a lux­u­ry. Hav­ing big lofty dreams for the future nev­er crossed our minds.

But the sisters were given a remarkable chance, thanks to Orbis supporters and the founder of Orbis partner Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, Mrityunjay Tiwari.

Fifteen years ago, Mrityunjay saw three urgent needs in rural Bihar, India: an eye hospital, healthcare workers to staff it, and girls' education. He decided to address all three. First, though, Mrityunjay needed to change the community's attitudes about girls' and women's capabilities.

The answer? Give girls the chance to play football!

The sport would be the icebreaker showing the community that girls have the drive and the ability to be high-achievers, just like boys.

Chhaya and Chhavi playing football

And that's how Chhaya and Chhavi's eye health education began. With the blessing of their grandmother, the sisters joined the program at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. They played football and were given vocational training that ultimately led them to become optometrists!

Orbis supporters helped open the door, and the sisters—and girls like them—use their determination to reach their potential and be a force for good in their communities.

Mrityunjay Tiwari


I felt that Akhand Jyoti Eye Hos­pi­tal would become a plat­form of bring­ing big­ger soci­etal change. For us, women are at the core of every­thing we do. And that’s why we start­ed the optom­e­try program.

Blindness Is a Gender Issue

Giving women and girls like Chhaya and Chhavi the same career opportunities as men and boys is part of gender equity. Another part is providing equal access to eye health care.

Around the world, 1.1 billion people live with vision loss, including blindness. Women and girls make up 55% of these people — that's 112 million more women than men.

Many barriers prevent both women and men from accessing eye health services. However, in many parts of the world, women face additional barriers to accessing eye care that men do not:

Through our programs, we work to address the unequal impact of blindness on women and girls. Our long-term country programs, Flying Eye Hospital projects, and online Cybersight training and mentoring all help provide better access to eye care for women and girls.

#Seeherpotential: Breaking Barriers and Restoring Hope

Chhaya and Chhavi are among many of the graduating optometrists at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital. Thanks to Orbis supporters, the power twins smashed gender stereotypes in their community by playing football and becoming eye health professionals.

Chhaya found her passion while attending Orbis-supported training on low vision and rehabilitation at Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital. Filled with enthusiasm and inspiration from her experience, Chhaya immediately approached the Akhand Jyoti hospital staff.

Standing proud at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital

She made a case that the hospital should address the rehabilitation needs of low-vision patients. Her idea was so well-received that Chhaya single-handedly set up a low-vision clinic within the hospital within two weeks!

While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the patient flow to the clinic, Chhaya is confident operations will be back to full capacity soon.

Chhaya screens a patient. Photo taken prior to COVID-19

Like Chhaya, her twin sister Chhavi also attended Orbis-supported training at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital. Chhavi was the first candidate trained for paediatric counselling. The experience taught her how to build rapport with parents of patients to persuade them to accept vision treatment for their child.

“This training helped me to understand the softer side of counselling which helps to bond with patients,” Chhavi says. “I feel happy when the patient is back in the hospital for surgery after counselling.”

Chhavi counsels a young patient. Photo taken prior to COVID-19

Chhaya and Chhavi Tiwary


Noth­ing gives us more joy than restor­ing the vision of a patient who had lost all hope of ever being able to see again. We are grate­ful to the donors for impact­ing the lives of so many rur­al girls like us.

Thanks to Orbis supporters and partners, Chhaya and Chhavi had the life-changing opportunity to learn at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi, India.

Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital established the first Orbis-supported Children’s Eye Centres in India.

The Children’s Eye Centres help ensure India’s girls and boys have access to quality eye care for generations to come.

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