Landmines do not care who they target. Woman, girl, man or boy, the impact they have transcends entire communities. Statistics show the risk of physical injury falls disproportionately on men and boys but women and girls are more vulnerable to the indirect impact of landmines — economically, socially and emotionally.
Mine clearance brings physical safety and security, but the very act of clearance can also be a means of empowering women. Luciana is 27 years-old; she is part of an all-female demining team in Angola. This is her story:
Luciana grew up in the small rural town of Balombo in Benguela Province. In 1997 the area was engulfed by fighting during Angola’s civil war and she was forced to flee with her family. After two long years they were able to return home but the town was unrecognisable. Many buildings were destroyed, unexploded ordnance littered the streets and the surrounding area was contaminated with landmines.
The place Luciana thought of as home was no longer safe. There were many accidents and deaths due to the landmines. Luciana worked as a shop assistant but struggled to provide anything beyond the very basics to support herself and her five-year old daughter. Then in June 2017, Luciana had the opportunity to join HALO Angola’s 100 Women in Demining Project. As a deminer she could become part of the solution to the devastating impact landmines had caused her family and community.
“I joined HALO because I wanted to contribute through my work to making the country safer for others. We suffered during the war and I didn’t want other people to continue to suffer as a result of landmines.”
In rural communities in Angola, work opportunities for women are often scarce. Employing women in mine action not only provides new life chances for women, it also makes them a direct part of the peacebuilding and reconstruction process. Luciana can see that she and her demining team are forging a new place for themselves in society:
“It is important for us to be doing this for the country and the population. I feel the respect of the people I know because they realise that this job isn’t easy.”
The ripple effect of Luciana’s employment within humanitarian mine action is powerful. She now has a regular salary that allows her to meet day-to-day needs but also to invest in the future for her and her daughter. She has been able to purchase a plot of land and has visions of building a house there. Financial security means she can not only educate her daughter but also contemplate studying herself, perhaps with the view to a career in the legal sector one day. In the immediate future, Luciana is determined to progress in her role as a deminer, allowing her to make life better for the people of Angola, one day at a time.