Commonwealth Future celebrates International Women’s Day with a special focus on the power of advocacy by caring for our nation’s vision

Each year, March celebrates inspiring women role models during International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021.  Delighted to invite three womenguests speakers who trail blaze when it comes to instigating positive change for a better future is the Commonwealth Future with their upcoming “Influencing key influencers across the Commonwealth” webinar that will take place on 11 March at 5:00pm GMT 2021.

Throughout the pandemic, Commonwealth Future – a not-for-profit non-political organisation striving for an optimistic future for the Commonwealth – has remained focused on its commitment to positively impact communities’ wellbeing and individual’s lives by making quality eye care accessible to all.

Three influential women who are charging the lead through effective advocacy programmes are Professor Hannah Faal who is an ophthalmologist and former President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Kristan Gross is the Global Executive Director of the Vision Impact Institute, Dr Caroline Harper CBE, Chief Executiveof Sightsavers International and previously an executive in the private sector. 

During the webinar, they will share their strategies to engage, recruit and implement effective advocacy programmes that deliver against set objectives.  The Commonwealth Future members, alongside invited guests, hope to learn new customer engagement routes during the session.

Advocacy is a powerful tool adopted by many corporates, charities and brands to instil trust with target groups.  We know from many research deep dives that people are more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they trust over advertising.  Advocates are trusted and their opinion is actively sought because they resonate with their audience; their advice is absorbed without cynicism.  That is why advocacy outreach and recruitmentprogrammes are an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to telling an important story and distributing a message to people already predisposed to listen to their counsel.

On-hand to chair the session is Professor Kovin Naidoo, a National Research Foundation researcher, educator and internationally celebrated public health leader who has been revolutionising access and delivery to eye care in Africa and for the disadvantaged throughout the world.

Recognising the need to develop research capacity in Africa, Professor Naidoo founded the African Vision Research Institute (AVRI). Among his notable contributions in research have been the Global Burden of Blindness articles, which provide the most recent additions to the global burden of uncorrected refractive error.

Among Professor Naidoo’s many esteemed affiliations are: Member of the World Council of Optometry Governing Board; WHO Refractive Error Working Group; Founder and Chair of African Vision and Chair of the Red Cross Air Mercy Services board of Trustees.

Dr Zimar Sivardeen is the Chairman of Commonwealth Future and is also on the front line of community eye health needs in the UK in his capacity as a store director of Specsavers in New Malden, Surrey and an academic at the University of Portsmouth. He comments:  Every time we host a webinar, we are always delighted to bring together apanel of experts who always open our minds to new approaches, new learning, new aspirations.”

I am sure the advocacy engagement and policy change discussion will be very informative to our attendees as they seek new ways to engage people who are very distrusting of branded, commercial messages.  I know I will learn a lot from them as they inspire new ideas to promote the Commonwealth Future with an advocacy programme.

Equally exciting is the attendance of Professor Naidoo and the three outstanding women leaders who have enjoyed an illustrious and varied career.  Their insight, research and academic knowledge of eye care health is invaluable to the Commonwealth Future as we strive towards helping others achieve a better life through access to quality vision care.”

Join Professor Hannah Faal, Dr Caroline Harper CBE, Kristan Gross and Professor Kovin Naidoothe theme of ‘Influencing Key Influencers Across the Commonwealth’ on the 11th March 2021 at 5:00 GMT.

Please register free on the following link:

Commonwealth Future website:

For information: images and profiles of our speakers in “Influencing Key Influencers across the Commonwealth”

Professor Hannah Faal

Professor Hannah Faal is a renowned leader, researcher, academic, mentor and “elder” in the international world of eye health.

Currently in retirement, she still finds time to dedicate herself to the provision of eye health through various roles. She is an adjunct professor in international eye health in Nigeria. She is also currently a Trustee of the Moorefield Korle Bu Trust. She is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and sits on the Global Advisory Board of Our Children’s Vision.

As a researcher, she chairs the Africa Research Vision Institute and she has authored over 60 publications with over 2000 citations and is a reviewer for journals.

Hannah is internationally recognised as one of the founders of the VISION 2020 initiative. Her journey towards achieving this started at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1975 where she obtained her Ophthalmology Fellowship. On completion, she relocated to The Gambia in 1980 with her family to work as the sole ophthalmologist, serving a population then of 800,000. She initiated the concept of comprehensive national eye care programming resulting in a fall in the prevalence of blindness from 0.7% to 0.4% between 1986-1996.

She has served as President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) from 1999-2004. She also served as an advisor to the Prevention of Blindness programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), contributing to the focus on refractive error, low vision services and inclusive education.

Kristan Gross

Kristan Gross is Global Executive Director for the Vision Impact Institute. In this role, she leads a global team of experts to create expanded awareness, through evidence-based research, of the global need to prioritize vision health. Prior to taking this position, Kristan served as Global Director of Content and Communications for the organization and successfully led traditional and social media expansion and advocacy initiatives in countries around the world. She is an expert storyteller in the global need for vision care and is dedicated to truly Giving Vision a Voice.

Kristan earned her BA in English and Psychology from East Texas Baptist University. Gross was appointed Vice Chair of Vision2020 USA in 2016, and is a member of the Optical Women’s Association. She was listed in Jobson’s 2014 Most Influential Women in Optical in the Innovation category and has received countless accolades and awards, including a Golden World Award for Excellence from the International Public Relations Association, the Mercury Excellence Award from Mercomm, Inc. and the 2018 Mentor of the Year Award from Women of Visionary Influence (WOVI).