Panel  to launch the new publication: 
Gender Perspectives on Disarmament 
14 March 2001, United Nations

GENDER PERSPECTIVES ON LANDMINES

Speaking points of
Mr. Martin Barber,
Chief
UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS)

of the
Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)

 

A. Introduction

1. UNMAS is very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this Panel discussion. The question of gender is an issue of concern to us.

2. UNMAS is also pleased to be taking part in this important initiative and dialogue. This will not only improve the direction of our work on gender and landmines but also contribute to expanding networks among interested constituencies.

B. Brief overview of UNMAS

3. UNMAS, a focal point of mine action, is responsible for ensuring effectively coordinated mine action at international level. We are mandated by the General Assembly to conduct operations in support of mine action worldwide, such as assessment of landmine situation, mine clearance (demining), marking, information management (database, statistics, and survey), marking, mine awareness (risk education), policy coordination, programme support, quality assurance (management), and victim assistance. We also advocate for effective implementation of the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction (The Mine Ban Treaty). We participate in major international gatherings on landmines, such as the meetings of States Parties.

C. Gender and Landmines

4. The international community has paid very little attention to the gender dimensions of landmines. However, we consider that the issue is important, because women and girls, and men and boys are affected differently in conflict and post-conflict situations, including in the case of landmines.

5. How is gender perspective taken into account in mine action? Here are some examples from mine awareness, victim assistance, advocacy, and demining. In the area of mine awareness, we have to ensure that women and girls fully take part in this activity. In a country where there is gender segregation, we need to apply a gender perspective in order to do any community based work, such as mine awareness. Women are often strong communicators and messengers through their children. In Kosovo, for example, wives of Imam learn of the danger of mines in their communities, tell their husbands, and their husbands then will spread the message in the local mosques. In Afghanistan, husbands and wives visit mine-affected communities as teams and talk to men and women separately of the danger of landmines. In southern Yemen, local women’s organisations were successful in mobilizing local and international support for mine awareness and victim assistance, and in bringing these issues to the attention of local authorities. Women therefore play a key role in delivering life-saving messages to children, girls in particular. It goes without saying that landmines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)can be particularly dangerous to children playing around their houses or in the fields.

6. In the area of victim assistance, how is a gender perspective reflected? We do not exactly know the ratio of women landmine victims versus men - we believe that more men are victims than women - but we do know that women suffer more when they become victims of landmines. For example, it is said that fewer women receive mobility aid, such as artificial limbs, and they may receive less attention in the case of emergency, right after the landmine blast. “Landmine Impact Survey: Republic of Yemen” indicates that the fatality rate is considerably higher for females (43%) than for males (29%). Men are more likely to have quick access to emergency care, like first aid than women. We also hear stories of married women that once they have become disabled, their husbands want a divorce immediately. If women are divorced from husbands, left with numbers of children, and unable to find work and support, they of course suffer from terrible poverty. We therefore look at creating opportunities where women landmine victims are well targeted in victim assistance related programmes. We have a good example from Afghanistan. Comprehensive Disabled Afghan’s Programme (CDAP), a non-governmental organization, which employs 400 field workers to implement rehabilitation, programmes for landmine survivors reports that 20% of their employees are women. As you all know, job opportunities for women in Afghanistan are very limited and therefore, CDAP has achieved an extraordinary result in terms of providing employment to women, which is such a rare case.

7. In the field of advocacy, for the banning of AP mines, look at the role women have played. Most international personalities advocating for a ban of landmines are women, for example, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, late Princess Diana, and Ms. Jody Williams of International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a co-laureate of Nobel Peace Prize. They were all successful in taking a lead in civil society and in stigmatising the use of AP mines. Fifty years ago when rebels and soldiers were implanting landmines. Now they recognize what they did was wrong and they are stigmatised. Their minds were successfully changed because of the achievement of these women leaders.

8. While it is important to enhance gender perspectives in mine awareness, victim assistance, and advocacy, we should also look at the role women can play in mine clearance operations. There are a number of women deminers clearing mines in Kosovo; and some international NGOs are starting to employ women deminers as well as hire women as international programme managers in the field.

9. In addition to the Security Council resolution 1325, which recognizes an important role of women at all levels of peacemaking and peace building processes, the General Assembly resolution “Assistance in mine action” (A/RES/55/120) makes two particular references on gender issues: “…to promote awareness of landmines, especially among women and children;” (para.3) and “…to promote gender-and age-appropriate mine awareness programmes, victim assistance, child-centered rehabilitation, thereby reducing the number of child victims and relieving their plight”(parag.8). [Copies of the Resolution are available on the table at the back of the Conference room].

D. Conclusion

10. Lastly, we would like to share with you two positive developments related to gender and landmines. First, a discussion item on gender will be taken up for the first time in the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance, Socio-Economic Reintegration and Mine Awareness (Geneva; 7-11 May, 2001). Second, UNMAS is planning a study on “Gender Perspective on Landmines” which will investigate how gender perspectives are integrated in mine action and will try to answer objectively questions like why there are less women who step on landmines than men? Is this because women go out from their houses less frequently than men, or is it because women are more careful of potential danger? The Study will help UNMAS to fulfil its responsibility for mainstreaming gender perspectives into all areas of its work.