UK based NGO The HALO Trust earlier this year launched a new project ‘100 Women in Demining in Angola’. The project hopes to train and employ 100 women in Angola as deminers, medics, drivers and mechanics, empowering women and boosting mine clearance in the country. In June HALO began recruiting the first 20 female deminers from the province of Benguela in Western Angola. The women trained outside of Huambo and following completion of the rigorous training will return to Benguela to begin clearing live minefields and building a future for their home communities.
The landmines are the dangerous remnants of the protracted civil war which ended in 2002, having consumed the country since independence in 1975. In the aftermath of the conflict it was estimated that 982 square kilometres of land were contaminated, in all 18 of Angola’s provinces. These landmines, laid on roads and tracks, around villages and buildings, have rendered large swathes of land inaccessible, massively impacting the livelihoods and security of the population. 15 years on some progress has been made with an estimated third of the country cleared of mines, but there remains a long way to go.
Land mine clearance has historically been a male dominated industry in the nation, but HALO are looking to diversify their team and offer training and employment for women in an otherwise hostile climate. It is hoped that the scheme will provide employment and a source of income whilst empowering the women in their communities. Through incorporating the women into demining operations as skilled agents and an integral part of the process, the project repositions women as central to conversations on the future of their communities; thus recasting the limitations that birth and economic status has imposed upon them. Furthermore, looking to the future it is planned the women will be able to take the skills learnt in this role to contribute to the development of Angola in other ways.
The first cohort of deminers were deployed in their home province of Benguela in August, where, according to HALO there are more than 80 known minefields. Since then the team have found 133 anti-personnel mines and cleared almost 8000 square metres of land. The second round of recruitment will be taking place this month and an additional 20 women will be trained in October. HALO hope the project will lead the way for land mine clearance in the area, kick-starting both government led and local programmes.
As ACTSA reported earlier this year, funding cuts have seen many mine-clearance projects paused in Angola. The UK ceased bilateral aid to Angola in 2011 but with the recent commitment of £100million to mine action globally, Angola might possibly receive funding from this allocation.
Read more on 100 Women in Demining in Angola at www.halotrust.org/100women