Mine Action Helps Social Inclusion in Laos

The article “Social inclusion of Marginalized Communities: Mine Action in Laos” by Tina Kalamar, who worked as Programme Assistant for GMAP, is now available. It explores the inclusion of gender and diversity in mine action in Laos through the lens of intersectionality. Mine action that is more sensitive to additional challenges faced by ethnic minorities, […]

The article “Social inclusion of Marginalized Communities: Mine Action in Laos” by Tina Kalamar, who worked as Programme Assistant for GMAP, is now available.

It explores the inclusion of gender and diversity in mine action in Laos through the lens of intersectionality. Mine action that is more sensitive to additional challenges faced by ethnic minorities, especially women from minority groups, can contribute to and benefit from greater social inclusion in a community.

Sustainable progress can be achieved considering not only the great ethnic diversity in the country, but also other dimensions, such as gender, disability, age, urban/rural origin, and language. An analysis of the interaction of these different factors is fundamental to achieve the inclusion of everyone and, as a result, to improve their livelihoods. At the same time, the inclusion of gender and other diversity aspects increases the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of mine action on communities

SOME ADDITIONAL FINDINGS.

Shortly after the publication of the article, additional information to the study has been gathered. 40 new surveys were filled in the province of Savannakhet, in southern Laos, by local staff working in support office and operations for an international mine action operator. Of the total respondents, 20 were female and 20 were male. The group turned out to be quite diverse as only 33% of the respondents identified themselves as Lao Loum. One out of two identified as Phu Tai, one of the largest ethnic groups in mid-Laos. Although ‘Phu Tai’ is an ambiguous term, and may refer  either to one specific ethnic group or to a generic  Tai person (non-Vietnamese)[1], which could cause misunderstanding[2].The author trusts this ambiguity did not affect the overall relevance of the data.

As for the other provinces, linguistic variety is one of the main dimensions of ethnic diversity in Savannakhet. Besides the official national language, seven minority languages have been identified as spoken by the respondents.

Working in such a multilingual environment, the employment of people from different ethnic groups is essential, as confirmed by the totality of the respondents.

The presence of different ethnicities within the teams was perceived as benefitting the communication and coordination with the local communities, especially in mine risk education programmes. In addition, the diverse ethnicities within the teams seem to facilitate the learning of new languages and the cultural exchange between groups, creating a mixed and stimulating work surrounding and allowing the sharing of ideas and friendship.

The presence of different languages leads to a high majority (90%) believing that communication is one of the bigger obstacles in the work, directly followed by reaching remote areas (53%) and cultural differences (43%). (Figure 1).

These new data revealed also some disparities in the use of minority languages between men and women. In fact, 45% of women interviewed reported never using a minority language at work, whereas 85% of men reported speaking minority languages at work. At the same time, the majority of the men indicated that they had encountered situations at work where knowledge of minority languages was especially needed, whereas the majority of women didn’t. Despite that, the inquiry finds no relevant difference regarding the position held by men and women interviewed in the organisation. Furthermore, the kind and number of minority languages spoken by the respondents doesn’t reveal disparity between sexes.

The limited use of minority languages by women might be caused by a number of reasons, such as women’s limited presence, status and role in rural areas. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and limited data, the reasons behind these results were not possibly be explored, certainly leaving room for further investigations.

[1] The prefix phu means “person, human, group”, thus phu Tai can refer to a general Tai person.

[2] Thanyalak Chaiyasuk & Asger Mollerup. The ambiguous use of the term Phu Tai: a specific ethnic group or a Tai-person in general. http://www.phutai.thai-isan-lao.com/Chaiyasuk-Mollerup-2014-Phutai_ethnonym-ENG.pdf. 2014