Yes, We Can!

Women’s Participation in IRS Improves Income Opportunities, Community Acceptance

In Zambia’s northwest Luapula Province, where more than 80 percent of the population falls under the poverty line and 100 percent is at risk of contracting malaria, the PMI AIRS Project is helping women to tap into new income-generating opportunities while protecting people from the disease. Traditionally, IRS positions have been male-dominated. The PMI AIRS Project is working to change that trend to help empower women and bring about gender equality.

The PMI AIRS Project works to promote the role of women in spray operations, improving their overall economic power in the household with additional income. Malaria transmission in Zambia occurs throughout the year with the peak during the rainy season, between November and April.

The PMI AIRS Project promotes the role of women in spray operations, improving their overall economic power in the household with additional income.

Filumba Beauty, who was promoted to Team Leader on the PMI AIRS Project in Samfya District two years ago, said, “As a woman, we do heavy work. While IRS may be seen as a man’s job, it’s lighter than some of the other things we have to do. It’s our right to have these jobs as much as it is a man’s.”

Belton Chishala, a male spray operator who has worked in IRS since 2010, now reports to Filumba Beauty. “It’s very important to have women in this program,” he said. “It encourages other women to participate in other programs and in other ways in the community.”

Judy Chisimba, a single mother of three and a PMI AIRS Project Team Leader in Mansa District, has become a role model for other women in the community. “The project has changed my life. I’ve built a house and sent my children to school with the money I’ve earned. Two years ago, I was promoted to Team Leader. This shows that women can be promoted in the project. Initially, the women in my area felt that carrying spray pumps was a man’s job. Now that they have seen how I’ve improved my life, they also want to be spray operators and ask me how to get involved.”

In addition to increasing women’s socioeconomic opportunities, Beauty said that increased participation of women on the project is also improving acceptance of IRS.

“Women are the ones at home caring for children and those who get sick,” said Beauty. “When female spray operators or community mobilizers visit homes, we help women to understand the importance of IRS. They trust us more because we are women. We explain that as the one responsible for caring for children or for anyone who has malaria, IRS can reduce their load because people won’t get sick as often.”

PMI AIRS actively recruits women for employment across the project from spray operators and community mobilzers to supervisors and team leaders.

PMI AIRS Community Mobilizers talk to IRS beneficiaries about the benefits of IRS and how to prepare their homes for spraying. Photos by: Laura McCarty

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