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October 19, 2020

The protest goes on

Editorial

 
October 19, 2020

There is a protest going on in Islamabad. And it is not by opposition political parties. It is by the women who perform the most important task of helping those without means and resources to gain access to healthcare and vaccination services. These lady health workers arrived in the capital to join a larger protest by pensioners, trade unions, doctors etc – all of them demanding dignity of labour, salaries, bonuses, better work structures. As these women sat in the dark on the fifth day of their protest on Sunday, they warned of marching towards the National Assembly (NA) after failed negotiations with the state authorities. The LHWs have a 10-point agenda, which includes the demand that the National Programme of Family Planning be restored to its original condition and that LHWs in all the provinces should receive equal pay.

The fact is that successive governments have failed to resolve the problems of these grassroots workers who cater to the most basic health needs of people, notably women and children in remote areas. Their task is not an easy one given that they work in often grim conditions without any facilities or support. The LHWs are considered by health experts to be crucial in delivering maternal care and also conducting vaccination drives such as those against malaria, dengue and polio. It is unfortunate that the government has neglected this issue and that talks between the protesters and the government have still not worked out. It is time the state’s attitude towards health workers is revised. Their significance in delivering healthcare must be recognized and pays made equal to those of others in public service working on the same scales.

The issue has continued for far too long already. The voices of these women should not any longer be ignored. The fact that they have chosen to gather, leaving behind homes, families and work to continue their protest indicates that they are indeed both serious and at a point where they cannot go without some concessions by the state. Their voices need to be heard. Their services need to be recognised. It is imperative that their demands are heard so that these brave women can continue to do their job. Without them, there can be no hope of the latest anti-polio campaign succeeding or of the millions of targeted children receiving the protection that they deserve.