Women healthcare workers from the Pakistan Polio Programme met Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in a virtual roundtable to share updates and launch the next phase of the ‘Female Frontline Worker Co-Design Initiative’. Participants shared their experiences from this initiative, which aims to systematically listen to and learn from female frontline workers to help solve final barriers to ending polio in Pakistan. They also shared their ideas and aspirations for the future, after Pakistan has successfully achieved this national goal, a news release on Thursday said. “My self-confidence has grown from participating in this initiative because it is so meaningful that the Polio Programme has taken the time to listen to our experiences and ideas, and that some of the solutions we proposed are being adopted to improve campaigns as well as our work experience,” said one frontline worker. “I’m so motivated to hear that we’ll be supported by the programme in building up other skill sets so we can be ready for other opportunities after polio is gone.” Pakistan’s National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication (NEOC) has approved select co-designed solutions from this process and will incorporate them into upcoming immunization campaigns, community engagement efforts, and other day-to-day operations this year. Examples of approved recommendations include a revitalized training package on key topics requested by frontline workers, improved campaign tools and materials, and communications strategies that highlight the value of female polio workers. In addition to implementing co-designed solutions to accelerate programmatic progress, the Pakistan Polio Programme will begin the next phase of this initiative by “upskilling” female polio workers in other capacities and helping them prepare for potential future opportunities after polio eradication. The Minister of National Health Services Regulation & Coordination, Dr Nadeem Jan, also expressed the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to supporting female polio health workers, including in exploring future livelihood pathways for a post-polio world. “Polio health workers have served Pakistan with incomparable dedication. Whether braving extreme weather conditions or navigating volatile security situations, they have remained steadfast in their commitment,” Dr. Jan said, adding, “It is our duty to not only appreciate their invaluable services but also ensure that this excellent workforce continues to contribute to the country after polio ends. This is why the new phase of the Female Frontline Workers Initiative is very important for us to build their capacities in different areas and ensure they have good job opportunities in the future.” French Gates praised the initiative’s progress and the programme’s commitment to supporting female workers through the next phase of this work. “These women are the heart of the polio eradication programme and ensuring their expertise and solutions are at the centre of eradication efforts is critical,” she said.