Nepalese Women Unionists to demand Community Health Work is recognised as work at International Labour Conference in Geneva

In a first, two CHWs from Nepal are participating in the ILO's annual meeting Geneva, Switzerland, from 3-14 June 2024. They aim to draw the world’s attention to their sustained struggle for rights and respect.

Geneva, Switzerland, 3 June 2024: Basanti Maharjan and Gita Devi Thing, two Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) from Nepal, will bring their fight for recognition, rights and respect to the UN International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 3-14 June 2024. FCHVs are Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Nepal, and like their sisters in India, parts of Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and parts of Africa, they are denied the right to wages, social security and job security. The ILC is the annual meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The two women leaders will join the delegation of global union federation, Public Services International (PSI), in the scheduled discussion on the care workforce. It is the first time the annual meeting of workers, governments and employers will discuss the shocking conditions of unpaid CHWs and comes after more than a decade of campaigns by PSI and its affiliates. 

Both women have lost family members to preventable health conditions and are committed to building stronger public health systems, but insist this must be done by respecting the primary health workers on the frontlines of healthcare delivery. "Despite making sacrifices and doing our work earnestly, we are not treated as workers but as volunteers. This is unjust. We deserve dignity, respect, and fair compensation for the vital services we provide to our communities." Thing asserts. 

“Lack of investment in public health systems has resulted in unfair treatment of CHWs. We face shortage of staff, lack of social and health security measures, and no or low remuneration. With the support of PSI we are fighting to change this,” said Maharjan. 

 Kate Lappin, Asia Pacific Regional Secretary of PSI, the global union supporting the workers, says that these women are exploited because of their gender. “Why do we expect women to accept miniscule honorarium payments for critical public health work?” she asked. “It’s clearly because women’s care work is devalued and taken for granted,” she added. 

Lappin says the ILO meeting is a turning point for CHWs. “CHWs across Asia are organising and winning. It is because of this joint work that the world will finally discuss the exploitative conditions they work in. We expect the Conference to call on all governments to recognise CHWs as workers, pay them as public health workers and for the ILO to work with PSI to ensure these women enjoy their clear right to Decent Work,” she added. 

·      Briefing Document on CHWs for the ILC can be found HERE.

·      More information on the two union leaders can be found HERE.

·      Details of the Community Health Work is Work campaign and demands can be found HERE.

For more information or to schedule interviews with CHWs in Nepal or Geneva, please contact:

Jeni Jain Thapa 

Project Organiser for Nepal, Public Services International 

Mob: +977 9841499169