The ZIRP is my workplace in so many ways

Agnes Phiri is one of the community members working to rehabilitate the Bwerudza Irrigation scheme in Chipinge, which UNOPS manages. Agnes attends to the work of the day with a lot of energy, but her focus is not just on the works; she also is a Village Health Worker (VHW) and serves a double role at the worksite. She provides health information and services as well as the labour on site as one of 47 community workers currently excavating a 2km storm drain to ease flooding in the irrigation scheme. ZIRP is her workplace in many ways. 

The workers, who work in five-hour shifts, have already made headway to complete the storm drain excavation. They are diverse, though most of them range from 18 to 30 years old. For Agnes, the worksite has also been a means for her to help young people access health information. “These young people really have a lot of questions, so I always have patience and try to answer them as much as possible. Today we did a sex education session where I taught them how to use a condom properly.” 

Through daily information sessions, Agnes has engaged with the youth, understands their health needs, and encourages more health-seeking behaviour. Trained through UNICEF Health’s VHW initiatives, she has provided community-level health care since 2014 and takes her role seriously, confident that the knowledge she has can be lifesaving.  “Sometimes, I do not always have the tools I need. For instance, today, I did a condom demonstration at the site and used a pick handle. But it was important for me to share with my co-workers how to correctly and consistently use condoms.”

According to UNAIDS, the number of adults aged 15 and over newly infected with HIV is around 34,000. So any intervention that provides information to youth plays a critical role in strengthening their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Agnes often supplies condoms in the site toilets so that workers have free access to them and can discreetly take as many as they need. She has also become an asset in providing first aid care to workers who may experience cuts and bruises as they work. “I enjoy my work in so many ways. I know what I do here has an impact in terms of health and safety not just here at the site but also when my fellow workers go home”.