Madrid, Spain — In 2005 the U.N. instituted the first International Landmine Awareness Day, calling for joint action by states to encourage demining activities in countries where landmines pose a serious threat to the safety, health and life of civilian populations. Even though landmines as military weapons are banned or discouraged by different international agreements, many countries still experience hundreds of civilian deaths caused by landmines.
Despite worldwide efforts to reduce the scourge of landmines, they remain a daily threat in more than 60 countries. The most prominent global demining effort came in the form of the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The treaty obligated signatories to stop the use of landmines outside of exceptional cases and to work to destroy all antipersonnel landmines. As of 2021, there are 164 parties, or states who accept and chose to adhere to the treaty, to the 1997 Convention.
Gender Perspectives on Demining
Community gender roles directly affect the actions required to reduce the number of victims who die because of landmines. This is why a gendered perspective on this issue matters.
According to the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group (IGCDIG), which includes the UNIDIR, gender perspectives have already informed many areas of international security such as multilateral arms control, The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and several U.N. General Assembly resolutions. Applying this gender lens to certain issues of development and security does not mean neglecting the needs of a certain group in favor of those of others. Rather, it means devising strategic plans so every faction or group receives adequate training and information for more effective results against violence and poverty. This way, it is crucial to include gender-responsive language in resolutions regarding the disarmament agenda.
Mine action takes place in a highly gendered context. There are staggering differences and inequality between women, men, girls and boys. According to a UNIDIR report, women and girls make up more than 14% of the total casualties caused by landmines worldwide, boys form 35% and men the remaining 51%. These figures directly relate to the roles that men serve in their communities and their risk exposure. A gendered analysis indicates the disproportionate danger landmines pose to men and boys, which must be considered in demining efforts.
Further Gender Influences
While the fatality rate is higher for men, family structures also suffer when male family members die or suffer injuries. This occurs because women often serve as primary caregivers for survivors and remaining family, according to the UNIDIR report. Landmine deaths or injuries often force women to provide sole financial support for their families. Furthermore, the IGCDIG notes women are underrepresented in international “forums concerned with peace and security.” This continues despite the direct and indirect landmine risks women regularly face. The IGCDIG notes that “targeted actions to improve women’s participation are required.”
The issue of gender perspectives and landmines does not often receive serious attention from the international community. This leads to a lower understanding of community socioeconomic situations of communities, structural differences and social inequalities. Generally, in many countries around the world, women have fewer opportunities for education, less leisure time and less mobility compared to men. Consequently, landmine detonations create situations that can look severely different based on who’s left to care for the family and the injured.
Colombia: Programs and Education
Since 1990, Colombia has mourned more than 12,000 landmine victims, out of which 1,239 were minors.
The Borgen Project spoke with an anonymous source within the Columbian Embassy in Switzerland. “Anti-landmine protocol takes place in determined contexts where there are differences and inequalities between men and women,” the source, an expert in disarmament agendas, shared. “Each one has their own assigned responsibilities, differential resource management and different opportunities to take decisions. This is precisely why anti-landmine action has to target these differences guaranteeing that all people involved in these processes receive what they require in a comprehensive manner, so useful and practical information and materials can be received equally.”
Many private and public initiatives focus on education for affected communities, demining operations and support systems for victims. They carry out essential aspects of this comprehensive action against landmines in Colombia. It is imperative for governments and organizations to formulate effective plans to tackle the landmine threat. Such plans must include the needs of every member of a community.
AICMA (Acción Integral Contra Minas Antipersonal) is a program that has operated since 2019 under the Colombian government. It serves as an important pillar to achieve peace in the country. Within territorial dynamics, AICMA is considered a tool for peace. It focuses on action in the most affected territories to create a larger humanitarian impact. It also invigorates living conditions for affected communities.
Its core missions, according to Colombian government information on the matter, are below:
- Humanitarian Demining: AICMA policy promotes a culture of peace by attempting to deescalate conflict. By freeing the land from mines, the land can once again be used to its full potential. This includes purposes in agriculture or beyond, in a safe and legal manner.
- Comprehensive Assistance to Victims: “Assistance, Attention, Reparation and Humanitarian Aid.” Victims receive financial support and supportive conditions to heal and eventually become independent in time. Empowering victims is beneficial for the family and the community as a whole.
- Mine Risk Education: This mission aims to encourage security by providing knowledge of the dangers. Educational workshops and information spreading activities take place throughout the nation. More than 11,500 activities have taken place as of February 2021, benefitting more than 230,000 people in Colombia.
Continued Commitment to Demining Efforts
Colombia aims to be landmine-free and has implemented plans reaching until 2025 to achieve this. These plans center on human rights, recognition of different needs in the population and action with harm. Demining processes act as keystones to development, prosperity and empowerment for all in the nation, including women.
– Arai Yegros
Photo: Wikimedia Commons