Blazing the trail for women in IRS

Maimouna with the Baroueli District Coordinator  and two team leaders.

Maimouna, left, with the Baroueli District Coordinator
and two team leaders.













In Mali, a conflict-ridden country where nearly half the population lives below the poverty line, Maimouna Sanogo is a woman making a difference. She helps protect people in her country from malaria through her works as a supervisor on the Abt Associates-led, President’s Malaria Initiative-funded Africa Indoor Residual Spraying project (AIRS). This year, AIRS protected more than 850,000 people in Mali from malaria including 22,400 pregnant women and nearly 154,000 children under 5.

As a woman in a leadership role, Maimouna is a trailblazer. In Mali, only 37% of women participate in the labor force, while participation is nearly double among Malian men (70%). Women and girls are stifled by lack of education—only about half of girls are enrolled in school—and harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (experienced by 85% of Malian women).

In this male dominated environment, Maimouna is an unusual example women’s empowerment. As the IRS supervisor in Garna Health Area in the District of Baroueli, Maimouna was chosen by the Community Health Association and the health center technical director to lead a team of 24 people (including 3 women). During the IRS campaign, Maimouna’s team in Garna health area:

  • Identified 2,536 structures to be sprayed with insecticide to protect people from malaria in nine villages,
  • Calculated the amount of insecticide and the number of days needed to cover all the structures, and
  • Communicated the benefits of IRS to community members thereby encouraging them to allow their homes to be sprayed and increasing the effectiveness of IRS.

With her tenacity and perseverance, Maimouna and her team were able to spray every single eligible structure in the Garna health area, protecting more than 9,300 people from malaria including approximately 650 pregnant women and 1,500 children under 5. In fact, the Garna IRS team found additional structures to spray during the IRS campaign that were not originally identified in the planning process, enabling them to exceed their goal of household IRS coverage by 4%.

“Initially, some people thought that a woman could not assume the role of supervisor. I showed them that it is possible!” said Maimouna.

During the IRS campaign, Maimouna woke up at 5 a.m. to take care of household chores before going work at 6:30. Between work and taking care of her family, she often didn’t rest until 10 p.m.

“For successful IRS, it takes discipline, punctuality and mutual respect,” said Maimouna.

As one of only two women supervisors out of the 68 IRS supervisors at AIRS Mali, Maimouna is a pioneer. AIRS intends to use Maimouna Sanogo’s success story to persuade community leaders to involve greater number of women in future IRS teams.

IRS is a vector control intervention, which is a major component of strategies against malaria in Mali. President’s Malaria Initiative-funded IRS began in Mali in 2008 in the districts of Koulikoro and Bla. It expanded to Baroueli District in 2011. IRS is continuing in these three districts from 2011-2014, implemented by Abt Associates.

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