Pakistani LHWs have set a future course of action for us to follow: Nepali Community Health Workers


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Pakistan is the success story in the region where lady health workers got their permanent employment status after a long strenuous struggle spanning over years, replete with a history of torture, beating, baton charge by police and imprisonment. 
“Being the backbone of the health system, Community health workers’ services should be acknowledged at the government as well as society level and their right to work in a harassment free environment should be established.
Their work should not be considered as voluntary instead of they should be paid for their work,” stated Sis Aysha Moosa, Project officer of Public Service International (PSI) who was speaking at the inaugural session of a three-day (Oct 30-Nov 01, 2023) exchange visit of Nepal-Pakistan Community Health Workers, which kicked off in Karachi at a local hotel with the Support of Public Services International and WERO.
Terming it a great learning and sharing experience, she stressed the need for CHWs of Nepal and Pakistan to work towards Gender responsive public services.
“Most of the women are deprived of many positions in the public health sector due to the lack of skills, which if provided to them they can make a huge difference,” she added.
On the first day of the meeting, documentaries from All Sindh Lady health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU), Sindh Lady Health Workers (SLHW), Community Health Workers of Nepal were showed to the audience, while CHWs of the two countries shared their experiences on organizing strategies, achievements and current issues faced by them.
Explaining the documentary, Halima Laghari ZulQarnain, Central President ASLHWEU, vowed to continue struggle till they get service structure.  “The service structure will entitle us to get benefits like EOBI, SESSI, pension etc,” she informed.
With a tagline “Community health work is work” the three day session, demanded implementation of laws which benefit female workers in any field in general and community health workers in particular, so that they get same benefits as enjoyed by other public sector employees.
Talking on the occasion, Sis. Jeni Thapa, from PSI, said the three day conference has set a course for future action for the community health workers, especially of Nepal.” She vowed to continue to strengthen each other’s struggles through concerned efforts.
Senior trade unionist and President, Peoples Labour Bureau Sindh, Habibuddin Junaidi, while speaking in a panel discussion on “Women in Trade Unions” said he was elected as the Advisor at ILO’s conference in Genva, he was asked to represent Pakistan in Equal Opportunities Committee and he was shocked to that no woman was nominated from Pakistan, and the two males including himself were representing Pakistan.
That shows the marginalization of female at international fora.”
He said with 70% of females working as domestic servants, their contribution to the GDP is almost nil as the sector is considered unorganized. Similarly, the textile sector despite being dominated by female workers, has failed to consider them as workers, as majority of women and children are usually hired as daily wagers, and are not given wages according to the law.
“The implementation of 5% quota for women in trade unions especially at decision making positions, and implementation of Occupation Health and Safety Act is still awaited.”
Chairman Sindh Commission of the status of Women, Nuzhat Shirin said the commission in her 6 years of service as Chairman, has raised voice for women in every sector including fishing and agriculture, despite severe criticism from various quarters.
“My jurisdiction was challenged when I raised voice on harassment of women at their workplaces, by saying that issue comes under the jurisdiction of Ombudsperson’s office, but I will continue to taking up these issues.”
Fatima Majeed from Fisher Folk Forum showed her concern on the lack of any fishing policy despite the passage of 72 years since the creation of Pakistan. She demanded of the government to announce the policy by assuring significant representation of women in it.
Speaking on the challenges faced by female journalists, Sheher Bano, Vice President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, said that being a gendered society, female journalists in Pakistan are always the first causality in any dire circumstances which the field of journalists face. 
“Non-issuance of contract letters, delayed salaries, non-implementation of 8th wage board award and women favouring laws and ILO conventions ratified by Pakistan, gender blind laws, lack of trainings, absence of job security, workplace harassment, non-inclusion of females at platforms like NIRC, ITNE, labour department and labour inspection system, are some of the grave issues coupled with the absence of females at decision making position in trade unions as well as in the management of various media houses, are some of the long standing issues which have not been resolved despite repeated assurance from the government.
“With most of the media converting to digital space, online harassment of female journalists is increasing but still nothing has been done to stop this. There is need to microfinancing to the female journalists who are laid off from various organizations,” she said while stressing the need for small female units in various media organizations who could take up issues at higher level.
On the second day, the Nepali health workers also visited two health houses set up by Lady Health Workers of Akhtar Colony and Kashmir Colony and shared experiences with their counterparts.
On the third day of the conference, the lady health workers of the two countries prepared joint recommendations and also prepared their one year plan.
“Pakistan LHWs are given us a roadmap to first struggle for securing jobs in the health department and for this we will present charter of demand to our health ministry and department to secure the status of worker, which will be followed by demanding other facilities. Their Pakistani counters vowed to keep struggling for a permanent service structure,” said the Nepali delegates.
Gen Secretary of Workers Education and Research Organization (WERO) Mir Zulfiqar Ali criticized the anti-workers policies of the governments of Pakistan and Nepal. “But we are not pessimistic about it as the real challenge is to continue struggle till the achievements of all rights.The struggle of Pakistan’s LHWs is a witness to it. ”
Others who spoke on the occasion included, Qamar Ul Hassan, Saeed Baloch, Ms. Basanti, Ms. Lama, and others.

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