Community Health Workers (CHWs) play a critical role in providing primary health care, providing information and raising awareness, and facilitating access to public health care to hundreds of millions of rural people. In South Asia, and other parts of the world, Community Health Workers — who are also known as Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs in India, Lady Health Workers in Pakistan and Female Community Health Volunteers in Nepal — are almost entirely women who are expected to do this vital work without being recognised as public health workers and without the payment of adequate wages. CHWs, in all countries except Pakistan, are denied the right to receive a minimum wage.

CHWs currently face the risk of contracting COVID-19 through their work but are perversely denied health and life insurance as well as pensions. Governments have recognised CHWs as “warriors against COVID-19” yet have routinely failed to provide adequate PPE, training, wages or support. Their repeated requests for provision of safety kits, masks and sanitisers during the COVID-19 door-to-door visits and surveys has been denied by the authorities. Unions representing CHWs have documented a range of threats and violations experienced during the pandemic. CHWs are facing heightened risks of infection and enduring long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, discrimination and physical and psychological harassment. Many CHWs have reported not being paid during the pandemic.

With increased risks of exposure to the virus, the pandemic has illustrated that precarious work is a threat to public health.

CHW unions have worked with the Global Union Federation, Public Services International, to develop the demands and launch the campaign ahead of the International Day for Universal Health Coverage.

Universal Health Coverage Day

Press Conference: Community Health Workers across South Asia launch campaign to recognise “Community Health Work is Work”

We organised a press conference on Friday 11 December 2020. Scroll down to see the video recording and the media coverage of our event below.


  • Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, Public Services International (PSI)

  • Anand Grover, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, India

  • Yamuna Tekam, ASHA worker, Nagpur Municipal Corporation Employees Union (NMCEU), India

  • Halima Zulqarnain, Central President, All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU), Pakistan

  • Gita Thingg, Vice President, Nepal Health Volunteers Association (NEVA), Nepal

  • Jyotsana Shakya, Treasurer, Health Volunteer Organisation of Nepal (HEVON), Nepal

  • Anna Torriente and Cristina Campayo Soriano, the International Labour Organization (ILO)


  • Kate Lappin, Regional Secretary for Asia and Pacific, Public Services International (PSI)


Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityHealthWorkers

Twitter: Follow @PSIasiapacific and @PSIglobalunion on Twitter and join the conversation using the hashtags #CHWs #CommunityHealthWork #UniversalHealthCoverageDay #UHCDay


Banaani Deka
Project Organiser, India
Email: banaani.deka@world-psi.org
Telephone: +91 84867 69455


Community Health Workers across South Asia launch a campaign to recognise “Community Health Work is Work” on the Universal Health Coverage Day

Press Conference Recording: “Community Health Work is Work”

Media coverage

Brochure: Joint demands of the Community Health Workers [English]


Halima Zulqarnain, Central President of All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU) Pakistan delivers her message at the press conference launching at the launch of “Community Health Work is Work” - a campaign by Community Health Workers across South Asia asserting their rights are workers For more information about the campaign visit: https://publicservices.international/campaigns/community-health-work-is-work?id=11393&lang=en

Halima Zulqarnai's message from All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union (ASLHWEU) Pakistan

Other resources