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Gendering on: updates on gender in mine action

Presentation by Purna Shova Chitrakar, Coordinator Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal,
Side Event on “Gendering on: updates on gender in mine action”
11th Meeting of State Parties on Mine Ban Convention on 30 November 2011

First of all, I would like to thank to the Gender Mines Action Program (GMAP), for providing me this opportunity. And I am very much delighted to share my views with all of my colleagues here.

At this movement, I would not speak of theoretical or philosophical aspects, or based on any research of Gender Mine Action, rather I would like to share only some of practical experiences I obtained while engaged in the universelization process of the treaty and Mine Action.

After I participated in the first international conference held in Cambodia in 1995, I initiated the foundation of Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL). After its foundation I continued the campaign against landmines. The conflict was riding in Nepal from 1996 to 2006. At the outset of the campaign, I dared to approach to the Government, parliament, as well as to the civil societies and raised the voice for banning indiscriminate mines and urged the government to join the Ottawa Treaty. I found positive responses from various sectors. As a result many changes were being made in the fray in the question of Mines Action in Nepal, and the impact of which we can now feel and realize these days. I am delighted at the changes that I could conceive of this campaign on time as a woman. While arriving at this point I could not see any discrimination or inequality upon women. Of course, it depends upon their leadership how far or whether women have been empowered, or what position they are occupying in the society. I think, it is not necessary for women to follow others only; instead they should lead to make their own identify.

The conflicts were escalating. All the year round it was estimated that more than 700 people were injured or succumbed to deaths from all types of explosion, resulting in a catastrophe to the Nepalese people. Meanwhile NCBL planned of securing of most vulnerable segment of society – women and children, including other common people from hazards of mines and explosive devises. So, from 2003 NCBL started Mines Risks Education and it expanded in 46 districts in 2005. To raise the issue of mines was not easy in such conflict period, but NCBL succeeded to do such job. NCBL did MRE as it was humanitarian and politically neutral issue. It worked as confidence building measure for both warrior parties. This opened the eyes of all sectors to operate MRE across the country, and thereby attracted domestic and international agencies or institutions, and subsequently they became active. The message implied that the question of mines is not limited only to the army and insurgents that they use, but concerns people at large as well. The people from all sectors therefore became active in mine risks education. But, my aim that most of womenfolk might come to the MRE activities could not be come true. In it those factors facing women responsible were such as insecurity from the conflicting parties, their impediments for being female kinds, their engagement in taking care of their children and domestic chores in the absence of their male partners, or works overload of farms because of fleeing of youths from villages during the armed conflict, and low approaches to the public offices and to political parties, among others; the consequence of which only few women could participate in the program as leaders. As persons working in the fields of gender issue often assume that ‘gender’ is not limited to the question of sexual difference only, however, I have time and again realized there is often feelings of sexual difference in the functioning of the society. Hence, it is justified of the fact that raising question of sexual difference in the areas of mine action seems correct.

Since 2004, NCBL under my leadership launched relief programs to the victims of remote districts. When I went to the victims for collecting their stories, victimized women would go in this way that, “When I succumbed to injuries, my father had to sell the property for my treatment – but my husband could not spend a penny for me. Neither had he come to see me at the hospital for a year, so we parted. Our children were admitted to Child Sanctuary/Relief Center thinking that both parents were dead.” Another woman told me her story that,” After being injured my boy-friend abandoned making contact to me, and sending money from Dubai as he used to. Hence, I am being lost and deserted.”

But, for the males things go different in the Nepalese society. They often use to marry another woman on the pretext of household chores, and lead their conjugal life comfortably. In our society there are different responses to the male and female persons with disability. I was sad when I chanced to see a man with disability chided his wife severely. Whereas there are still some similar stories showing differences in between males and females, therefore, I have realized women should necessarily be taken a lead in a bid to raising question of gender in the areas of Mines Action.

The Government has set up a Relief and Rehabilitation Fund under The Ministry for Peace and Reconstruction. Some provisions of relief have been made to victims of mines during the conflict periods and to other kinds of the persons wounded or killed or succumbed to death. While assessing of the relief distribution facilities they are having, it’s found that it has been easier or comfortable for the males than the females. It is because males are more leisurely of household bonds and are securing than females, it has been comfortable for them. While on the other hand, women are facing impediments to get out of their homes, to finish up household chores, taking care of their children, feeling of insecurity on the ways, and thinking of social custom where females are required to work under guidance of males or barriers in other ways, among others. There were facts which we faced – either sometimes having late assistance, or sometimes non. There has been no research on this, but it is necessary to investigate things in future, that may justify to reveal whether the concept that sexual (gender) difference might count in the field of Mines Action or not.

Once I chanced to take an interview with a deminer of Bosnia Herzegovina. She told me that at the outset there were many women in demining, but reduced later. She said it was challenging for females shouldering with males to work for hours in demining.

Nepal has produced a good example in this respect. Women are specified to have been required of at least 33% participation to each of the sectors in accordance with the prevailing Constitution and laws of Nepal. Subsequently there are women incorporated in demining. But their involvement/leadership may be backtracked unless and until specific provisions as well as approaches to across and abroad the county are made available. In my opinion we can look into gender and mines by dividing it into two sets. There are two levels of women. Firstly the women who are taking leadership in the five pillars of mine action, and secondly the women who are affected by landmines and other explosives devices.

At last once again, I would like express my thanks to the organizers, colleagues and the participants who listened to my speech patiently.