ASHA workers’ response to WHO award

Dear editor,

MEL has steadfastly supported the struggle of the ASHA and Anganwadi workers throughout the country. You have consistently highlighted our demands and called upon all workers to support our cause. We thank you for your support.

Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) awarded the Indian government the Global Health Leaders Award 2022, in recognition of the contribution of over 9 lakh ASHA workers all over the country in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the past two years, many of us have risked our lives and health, to reach out to people. We have often been sent to work in remote and inaccessible villages. Many of us have worked for 12-14 hours a day, doing door-to-door surveys, counselling people on isolation, medicines and benefits of vaccination. We have organised testing and vaccination camps to ensure that hundreds of families in the villages got treatment and vaccinations at the right time. On many occasions, we were not even provided masks and adequate protective gear. In the process, so many of our colleagues contracted Covid and died or suffered for prolonged periods, or lost many of their near and dear ones. We have done all this, at a salary of Rs 5000-7000 per month. Many of us are the sole earning member of the family.

We have highlighted our conditions before successive governments. We have come out on to the streets, again and again, demanding that we be given the status of government workers, paid at least the statutory minimum wages, have fixed working hours, job security and retirement benefits. But our demands have fallen on deaf ears. In March this year, when our Anganwadi sisters went on strike for the same demands, hundreds of them were terminated.

We are very proud of our work over the last two years. The government can justifiably be proud of our efforts during the pandemic. But awards do not pay for food.  Awards cannot ensure that our children get good education. We want our ASHA sisters to be paid adequately for our work as per government wages. We want to be recognised as workers and given our rights as workers. That will make us happier than any award.

Yours

Sunita,
ASHA worker,
Darbhanga district, Bihar

 

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