Myth 1: “Mainstreaming gender in mine action activities only targets and benefits women”

The integration of a gender perspective in mine action targets and benefits all members of society: women, girls, men and boys. One concrete example is provided by an organisation gathering information from both women and men in the mine affected communities, and setting up survey teams made up of both female and male surveyors. Due to their different knowledge and experiences, women and men might identify different areas as contaminated by landmines. This example illustrates that valuable information would have been left out if the surveying had only involved one of the groups.

Myth 2: “Gender is complex and expensive to implement in mine action”

Gender, despite its alleged complexity, is universally applicable in mine action, regardless of pillar, region or culture. Gender mainstreaming can be implemented by small means and with low cost implications. One example of having a gender aware approach is to develop MRE material ensuring that men, women, boys and girls recognise themselves in the pictures. This exercise is low cost and ensures that the material does not exclude any particular sex and reaches all members of the communities.

Myth 3: “Culture and traditions are the main obstacles to mainstream gender within mine action activities”

Culture and religion are frequently used as arguments for not integrating a gender focus in mine action activities, referring to the “unique situation” in a particular country. Yet, where empirical research has been conducted, the results support the opposite. Actually, lack of knowledge and willingness seem to constitute the real obstacles. Worldwide, organisations have successfully employed female deminers in environments where other organisations stated that such operations would be “impossible”. For example, by addressing the recruitment process through a gender lens and challenging notions and ideas, these organisations found that the alleged obstacles in terms of culture and traditions actually were not there.

Myth 4: “Gender mainstreaming only means increasing employment of women”

Many organisations are confident that they have integrated a gender perspective by employing women. It is true that employment of, for example, female deminers is an excellent way of ensuring female participation in mine action. This is done in Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, only to mention a few places, where these women act as role models and source of inspiration for other women. But often employing women in mine action has reinforced stereotypes, as women have been hired for work in administration, education or rehabilitation rather than as deminers, a role traditionally perceived as being for men. Female employment is only one part of gender mainstreaming, but not enough to ensure both equality and quality.