In areas hit by conflict all over the world, landmines are an ongoing threat. They still wreak havoc on populations that are trying to rebuild their lives and move towards peace.
Deaths from landmines have, this year, reached the highest levels for a decade — and horrifyingly, half of those killed are children.
Now, in areas where a large number of the male population have been killed, hundreds of women are joining together to clear their communities of the lurking danger of landmines.
One of these women is 27-year-old Olimpia Nduva Chicoma Dala, from Lobito, in Angola. The mother of two is part of a “Women in Demining” project, run by UK-aid funded HALO Trust.
“Before I began working for HALO, life was a struggle,” she says, telling her story to HALO Trust. “I worked many jobs — in a salon, as a cashier in a shop, and tried to earn money by selling clothes and shoes.”
“It is really hard for women to find work in Angola, especially for my generation,” she continued. “When I first heard that the job with HALO involved removing landmines I was frightened — I thought maybe I will die doing this!”
“But my friends and family encouraged me, they told me to be strong and go and do the training,” she said. “I remember excavating my first real mine, I was very afraid but now I am happy that I can do this work.”
Between 1975 and 2002, Angola was home to a devastating civil war — sparked after Angola became independent from Portugal.
Princess Diana raised international awareness about the threat of landmines used freely in the war, when she walked through an active minefield in the country in 1997 — as news teams from across the world looked on.
“My family suffered during the war,” continued Chicoma Dala. “Some of them died running from the soldiers, some were killed by bullets. The landmines from the war represent a big danger to our lives, but as a woman I am able to contribute to my country by removing them.”
“People might say it is not work for women, but we can do what men can do, we just need to believe and be strong — this is what I am doing,” she continued. “I would like to say to all women in the world, whatever you want to do in your life, do not give up, keep on going. Do not say this is men’s work, we women can do anything too.”
This week, the UK government pledged £46 million of overseas aid funding to help support the global effort against landmines.
The money will be used to train all-female demining teams, working alongside local authorities, governments, and organisations such as the HALO Trust, and Mines Advisory Group (MAG).
The training empowers women through skills training in landmine clearance, vehicle mechanics, and paramedic first aid, with projects across Africa and Asia.
New UK aid-funded technology, including radar detectors will also help trace ammunition in the equivalent of more than 16,000 football pitches, according to the Department of International Development (DfID).
“Anti-personnel landmines are designed to rip off a person’s lower leg and force dirt and bone splinters up into their leg or body,” wrote Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s international development secretary, in the Guardian.
Original article can be found <a href="https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/uk-aid-landmines-all-female-angola-halo-trust/" target="_blank">here</a>.