Júlia Kuyanga Tchimba is quietly determined. One of the first recruits to HALO Angola’s 100 Women in Demining Project, she is a leader in the camp, the person they turn to for advice and support.
Photos by Scout Tufankjian
"I feel proud and strong that I am doing this job. I am helping the world but especially my country, Angola. We can leave the fields free of mines and save the lives of people and animals. The country needs to be able to develop, we need to clear the mines for schools and roads and so the country can grow."
To start with I was very afraid. After our training, we went to Cuito Cuanavale (one of the most dangerous minefields in the world.) I was shaking so much, every step I took I was checking the ground beneath my feet with the detector—even when I wasn’t in the minefield! But after a couple of weeks I was not afraid. I never thought I cannot do this, I said to myself ‘if the other women are doing this then I can too.’
"I want to say to all women to be patient and strong to face anything in your life. It is not just men who can be pilots or engineers, we women can do anything too."
This has been a good experience in my life. For some, it is a surprise to see women climbing the mountains and clearing the landmines. But we women have to show the world we are capable of this work. I think men are seeing this too now.
It is the first time I have lived with this many women but we are like family. There are 34 of us altogether—plus Georgina who is on maternity leave. She has called her new daughter HALO-Louisa! I am a point of contact for the women and help to solve any problems. I am also trained as a paramedic deminer. I look after the women if there is an accident but also day-to-day, for example if they have a high temperature or sickness. It was a good opportunity for me because I had not trained in this before—I’d never had to give injections to anyone! It is learning that I will now have for the rest of my life. Last year, when my brother visited from Namibia he became ill with malaria but I was able to help treat him thanks to my training.
"It is only me and Juzy here in Angola but I need to help support seven members of my family back in Namibia. Everything is expensive, we need food to eat, if we go to the hospital we must pay for medicine. Now I can buy books, pay for schooling and uniform. It is better now I have a job. At the moment we are happy but I also need to think of making a secure future for us. I have bought some land and my plan is to build a small house there."