On Wednesday, the Gender & Mine Action Programme held a side event to the 20th National Mine Action Directors and UN Advisors Meeting at the United Nations in Geneva. The event was titled “Reciprocal Empowerment: Women and Mine Action”, which was moderated by GMAP Programme Manager Lilla Schumicky-Logan, GMAP wanted to explore the different ways women change mine action, and how mine action in turns changes women.
We were lucky to have a great variety of presenters who contributed each in their own way to advancing the discussion on women and mine action. Marion Provencher, JPO for GMAP, started the side event by going over 20 years of gender in mine action through an interactive timeline, which will be soon available on GMAP’s website. Nelly Schlafereit and Zeila Lauletta, two MA candidates at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies shared with us the results of their research project on women working in humanitarian mine action in Lebanon and Colombia. They presented on the type of agency women reportedly gained by being employed in the mine action sector. Christian Ruge from Norwegian People’s Aid explored the key challenges and successes he and the NPA faced striving towards gender equality. He addressed the benefits and changes in attitude that come with empowering women in the field of mine action. Habbouba Aoun, professor at the Universtiy of Belmand in Lebanon disclosed the conclusions of a research conducted in 2015 and 2016 by university students in Lebanon, one that documented the capacity of female deminers to identify as agents of change and transform the world they live in. The results of the study are currently being drafted and should be available in June of 2017. Finally, the highlight of the panel was undeniably Margaret Arach Orech, a survivor, founder and director of the Ugandan Landmine Survivor Association and ICBL Ambassador. She kindly agreed to share with us the story of how she survived an attack on her life in which she lost her leg and the impacts that had on her life. In the aftermath of this tragic event, she started volunteering, creating support groups for survivor of accidents, and lobbying for the rights of persons with disability while starting to advocate against anti-personnel landmines. GMAP would like to thank all of those who were present and engaged with the panelists.