Gender and Mine Action
Landmines continue to constitute a barrier for development in more than 70 countries and territories worldwide. However, there is now a general recognition that there are significant gender dimensions to mine action: women, men, girls and boys are affected, and best assisted, in different ways: gender impacts the likelihood of becoming a victim of landmines, accessing medical care, reintegrating into society after being injured, and accessing mine risk education. Consequently, mine action programmes and activities do not necessarily benefit women and men equally and should make sure that they neither sustain nor exacerbate existing inequalities between women and men.
Mainstreaming gender within mine action policies, programmes and operations guarantees that the contributions, concerns and needs of all components of society are acknowledged and addressed without bias. It also benefits the community as a whole by ensuring a more coherent, holistic, multi-dimensional response to the different needs of mine-affected women, girls, boys and men. Gender mainstreaming in mine action is not only about equality, but also about quality.
Gender mainstreaming within the different pillars of mine action
Mine action traditionally is divided into five pillars: 1- demining, 2- mine risk education (MRE), 3- victim assistance, 4- advocacy and 5- stockpile destruction, which have as a common goal to reduce the human, social, economic and environmental impact of landmine contamination. According to the United Nations Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes, there are clear gender aspects to the first four pillars:
Due to their gender specific roles and responsibilities, women, girls, boys and men often have different mobility patterns and hold different information on areas that are contaminated, or suspected of being contaminated in their communities. Implementing gender considerations such as sex and age disaggregated data is vital for the accuracy of data collection and for obtaining a comprehensive picture of contamination and priorities for clearance. When only males are consulted, areas specifically used by females, such as routes to collect water and firewood, risk being left out from the prioritization process. Specific arrangements such as appropriate communication of the objectives of assessments and surveys, adequate timing and location, and house-to-house visits, improve efficiency through community ownership of the process and collection of accurate data. In cases where an inclusive approach has been adopted, the result has been a more accurate mapping leading to more thorough clearing.
Training and hiring both female and male surveyors represents another effective way of gathering information from different segments of the population. Be it through informal talks with women, or through formal hiring of women, the use of female surveyors is a crucial factor for successful surveying in many societies: women have access to other women and different information channels than men. If all groups are not consulted by gender balanced survey teams in information gathering activities, vital and life-saving information may be lost. While the employing of female deminers in mine clearance has met with greater resistance in some countries (usually based on cultural and religious arguments that demining is not an activity meant for women), like surveying, clearance remains an income-generating employment opportunity for many men and women. Preventing women from accessing demining not only affects the well-being of families and consequently, entire communities. In many respects, female deminers who actively take part in improving their communities’ daily living are important role models, inspiring other women in the mine affected communities to take up paid positions or engage in local politics, social work or other activities.
After non technical survey, technical survey, clearance, the process of handover or restitution of the land to the communities also requires gender mainstreaming. In this process it is very important to ensure that all people, women and men, have information about which areas have been cleared and are ready to be used. Moreover, it is crucial to study who has access to the cleared land. Women might indeed be hindered from accessing land cleared due to discriminatory property laws.
Mine Risk Education (MRE)
Mine Risk Education or MRE refers to activities which seek to reduce the risk of injury from mines and ERW by raising awareness and promoting behavioural change, including public information dissemination, education and training and community mine action liaison. Aside from involving women as MRE trainers, making sure that different material is adapted to different target groups is a crucial measure to ensuring that MRE messages are clear to all components of society. As women, girls, boys and men have different at-risk behaviour and exposures in relation to landmines, MRE material should be tailored according to their particular vulnerabilities.
Literacy, language and local customs are other crucial factors when deciding which materials to use for conveying the messages of MRE written materials, posters, videos, dramas or other methods. Radio, television, and other audio or visual media have been proven effective ways of communicating messages of mine danger to women, but in many places, no such media is accessible or available. Access to these kinds of media varies greatly, not only due to gender, but also because of factors such as poverty and living in rural areas.
Medical care and rehabilitation after a landmine injury should be a universal right, regardless of sex, age, class, caste, region or any other variable. To ensure that these services are available and appropriate for both women and men, one key success factor mentioned is carrying out in-depth studies on the needs of injured women, men, girls and boys and not clumping them together in one group. The approach of “treating anyone that comes to the door” belies the fact that women might face difficulties in accessing services because of gender roles and inequalities, mobility restrictions, financial restrictions, the apportioning of domestic work, and because they cannot leave their children behind while they search for care. As social norms regarding what economic roles are appropriate for women and men can give rise to the belief that men are the primary income providers, male mine survivors often receive priority emergency medical assistance, prostheses and rehabilitation – a significant problem for female-headed households. Moreover, in certain countries, women may face constraints in accessing timely and appropriate assistance with fatal consequences as male doctors may be forbidden from examining women and women may be restricted from practicing as doctors.
Rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) should also be looked at from a gender perspective as survivors of landmines suffer consequences not only from the physical damage caused but also psychologically and emotionally from social pressures in relation to their sex:
- injured men feel humiliated by not being able to remain the breadwinner of the family;
- injured women become vulnerable to poverty, stigmatization, and isolation because of their potential incapacity to take care of their children and domestic work
- single injured female households might encounter even more difficulties in having their status as primary breadwinner recognised, or in marrying.
Finally, it should be noted that “victim” does not only refer to those who are injured by landmines, but also to those caretakers or family members of an injured person. This added definition is important to take into account: a man, as husband to an injured wife, might more or less continue life as before with assistance from female family members for the household duties. In contrast, women, as wives to injured men, have to take up the role of being the family’s main breadwinner, in addition to completing her household tasks and taking care of the children, adding more duties and and putting her in an even more vulnerable position.
Many advocacy initiatives in mine action are carried out on various gender aspects, ranging from using local resources (singers for instance), to educational pamphlets or stressing the importance of including gender perspective in the process of developing guidelines for mine action already from the beginning. As in all advocacy efforts or pubic relations campaigns, it is very important that the target groups recognize themselves in the posters, videos, pamphlets or other media being used.
Gender sensitive advocacy has a great role to play by promoting the systematization of extensive research on the different effects of Anti Personal Mines (APM) on women, men, girls and boys and the systematic use of sex and age disaggregated data. Gender sensitive advocacy can also encourage policy makers and implementing organizations to make gender mainstreaming and gender balance priority considerations in formulation and implementation of mine action policies, programmes and operations. If gender is integrated in the planning phases, no separate “on-top” guidelines on gender are needed.
Gender in national mine action strategies
There has been significant progress made by both national and international stakeholders to include gender considerations in mine action. During the 10th Meeting of the States Parties to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention, which took place on 29th November - 3rd December 2010 in Geneva, over 30 national authorities and international stakeholders highlighted either intentions to incorporate gender mainstreaming in their mine action work, or indicated already having done so, particularly in the area of victim assistance.
Certain national and international mine action strategies have been identified as incorporating gender issues at different levels. Most strategies commented on efforts made to include women in mine action and take into consideration gender issues when planning mine action activities. Few others presented sex and age disaggregated data while others reported on plans to record data in a disaggregated way.
While these represent important first steps to achieving gender mainstreaming in mine action and complying to the Cartagena Action Plan, progress needs to be continued and encouraged. New lessons learnt and best practices on gender mainstreaming and mine action need to be identified through research and consequently shared and applied.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of mine action strategies that have incorporated some gender issues:
|National strategies:||Donor strategies:|
|Afghanistan||Australia - AUSAID|
|Angola||Denmark - DANIDA|
|Azerbaijan||United Kingdom - DFID|
|Cambodia||United Nations - inter agency|
The following guidelines, UN documents and resolutions specifically stress the need to implement gender perspectives and considerations in landmine programmes:
- The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on “Women, Peace and Security” specifically emphasizes “the need for all parties to ensure that mine clearance and mine awareness programmes take into account the special needs of women and girls”.
- The United Nations Mine Action Service(UNMAS) published a revised version of the Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes in March 2010;
- United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has called attention to the need to take gender perspectives into account in landmine programmes; and
- Both the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and the 1998 Commission on the Status of Women highlighted the special concerns of women in mine affected areas.
- Gender and mine action: practical recommendations
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- Mitchell Suzette, "Gender Mission Report: UXO Clearance and community development in Thua Thien Hue Province”, 2003
- Ruberry, M., “The Effects of Landmines on Women in the Middle East”, Journal of Mine Action, April 5, 2001
- Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Gender and landmines: from concept to practice”, April 2008
- Swiss Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Improving the effectiveness of mine action through initiatives to support and encourage the inclusion of the gender perspective”, project document, 2006
- UNMAS, “Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes”
- Wallacher Hilde, "Gender Mainstreaming in Mine Action: a critical background analysis”, Assistance to Mine affected Communities (AMAC), 2007.
- Gender and Mine Action Programme (GMAP)
- The Human Rights Council Resolution 6-30, December 2007,
- The 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction
- The 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.