Promoting Gender Equity in IRS

Seasonal employment expands opportunities for women in IRS

The President’s Malaria Initiative Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (PMI AIRS) Project is combating malaria in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar through indoor residual spraying (IRS), by spraying insecticide on the walls, ceilings, and other indoor resting places of mosquitoes that transmit malaria. Traditionally, IRS has been viewed as a job for men. To address the issue of reduced participation of women in IRS, the PMI AIRS Project promotes a gender-equitable working environment.

PMI AIRS Team Leaders.  Photo by: Namala Mbalilaki

PMI AIRS Team Leaders. Photo by: Namala Mbalilaki

The project included a gender operational plan to promote gender inclusion during advocacy meetings at the regional, district and community levels. All job advertisements were in Swahili and specifically encouraged women to apply for all positions. When female seasonal workers from the previous spray campaign apply for positions but are now pregnant, they are medically ineligible for certain positions. The PMI AIRS Project makes every effort to employee those women again through another position they are qualified for and that does not expose them to insecticide. The project also appointed a gender focal person whose role is to coordinate all gender-related activities and ensure that the policies were complied with.

The 2016 spray campaign employed more than 4,754 seasonal workers, including 34 percent who are female – surpassing the goal of at least 25 percent, and an 8 percent increase from 2015.

In order to create a safe and comfortable work environment for all employees, the project trained staff on gender-related issues, familiarizing them with the project’s anti-sexual harassment guidelines. All 102 operation sites posted the guidelines in the local language and provided a hotline for employees to anonymously report any incident of sexual harassment. All sites also ensured that women and men had separate facilities for changing and washing.

Leonora Binagwa, a female spray operator from the Bukiriro Site in Ngara District, Kagera Region, said, “We are very proud for the education on gender awareness. I feel safe and happy. When the IRS [campaign] is over I will use the money to buy my own sewing machine and start a business to generate income. I will also be an ambassador for other women in my village to apply for this work next spray round.”

Dr. Madina Kibiriti, Ngara Malaria Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Focal Person, said, “For the first time in Tanzania, we have a project [AIRS] that has supported the National Malaria Program/local government in establishing a pragmatic approach geared at addressing gender issues in the work environment. This was made possible through integrating the gender-based issues in all the IRS processes.”