Health care workers, camped outside the parliament for the last five days, refuse to leave until their monthly pays are increased and the structure of their employment improved.

Over 500 women, some with young children, have been sleeping out in the open on D-Chowk road in Islamabad since Wednesday, when they arrived in the federal capital from across Pakistan as part of a larger protest by government employees against rising inflation.

While the other organizations left the same day, the lady healthcare workers, who are tasked to run vaccination campaigns in the country, and were recently mobilized to fight COVID-19, stayed on.

“We will not leave until the government listens to us,” Rukhsana Anwar, a lady healthcare worker, told, “At the moment we are organizing ourself, increasing our numbers, after which we will march towards the parliament to be heard.”

There are a total of 100,000 lady health care workers in the country, adds Anwar.

In the last five days, those who visited the sit-in included, Ali Muhammad Khan, the state minister for parliamentary affairs, Dr Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services, and officials of the Islamabad administration.

All negotiations broke down, as the women were told their demands can only be met by the provincial government, not the federal.

“We want our pay scales to be increased,” she explained, “Some of these women have been working at the same grade without a promotion and a pay of less than Rs.20,000 per month for several years now.”