Campaign to highlight plight of frontline women workers

A frontline worker at a primary health centre in Hyderabad in January.  

Several trade unions, feminists and research groups and policy advocates have come together on International Women’s Day to campaign for the rights of anganwadi workers, helpers and ASHAs with Members of Parliament and to highlight their plight during the pandemic.

The Frontline Workers’ Solidarity Campaign will be addressing several MPs as Parliament reconvenes for the second part of the Budget Session on Monday. The drive is being spearheaded by Feminist Policy Collective, which is a mix of individual researchers, academicians, policy advocates and feminist organisations, as well as UN Women.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown up the glaring gaps in public health systems when the only force available on the ground were community-based frontline women workers. These women workers are pressed into service, sometimes appearing as the only face of the state health system in certain areas. During COVID-19 they have been pressed into additional roles. Despite the hard work they put in, their regular payments were stalled for many months, and they have not been properly compensated for the high risk and extra burden of work,” reads the campaign letter.

It adds that while being on the frontlines, these workers had to conduct surveillance and tracking duty to curb the spread of COVID-19 often without any protective equipment or remuneration for their labour. On the contrary, they had to face delays in payment of salaries and were forced to go on protest marches to demand their basic compensation.

It is estimated that there are nearly 75 lakh frontline health workers, including 28 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers; 25 lakh mid-day meal cooks and helpers; and close to 10 lakh ASHAs.

The 12 demands laid down by the campaign include recognition of frontline health ‘volunteers’ as workers and formalisation of their jobs. It also demands a ‘living wage’ as remuneration for them, which is above the minimum wages of ₹18,000 per month. It seeks that the health workers be enrolled into all existing social security schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), maternity benefits under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), and free health coverage for all frontline workers and their families.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 3:17:30 AM |

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