[Dateline: Brindisi | Author: UN Mine Action Service]
Efforts to mainstream gender in mine action programmes over the past four years underwent a review at a workshop organized by the UN Mine Action Team at the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, 23 to 25 September.
Good practices and lessons learned were identified and consolidated at the event to guide future gender-sensitive staffing, planning and operations of mine action programmes managed or supported by the United Nations.
The United Nations Mine Action Team developed Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes in 2005 to help develop more efficient, cost-effective, and culturally appropriate mine action programmes. The workshop allowed the 25 participants from five United Nations entities, two nongovernmental organizations and three national mine action authorities to take stock of the wealth of experience gained while applying the guidelines since their publication.
"We are at a crucial moment of the organization’s learning cycle," United Nations Mine Action Service Policy Coordinator Gabriele Russo says. "We organized this workshop to identify exactly what we learned and to share the body of knowledge with all mine action programmes backed by the United Nations."
In 1997, the Economic and Social Council defined gender mainstreaming as the "process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action."
Research has shown that landmines affect men, women, girls and boys in different ways. Mine action programmes that are designed with these differences in mind are more likely to lead to more effective interventions that make the most of scarce resources.
According to Ibrahim Ismaeel, a mine action programme specialist with the United Nations Development Programme in Iraq, "Gender mainstreaming is a very powerful tool for positive change." He explains that mine risk education services that are targeted differently to men, women, boys and girls are more likely to have a far-reaching effect on people’s behaviors.
Samim Hashimi, a mine risk education project manager from the Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan says, "We must keep in mind the different literacy levels of men and women in a particular community. Cultural sensitivities must be engaged," Hashimi adds. "The Koran says that men and women should be treated equally and given equal opportunities in life. I remind religious leaders and politicians of this fact during my work in Afghanistan. We must respect the local culture while having a constructive dialogue on gender issues."
"We expect that when the workshop is over, all of us will have a clearer sense of the way forward," Russo says. One of the objectives of the workshop is to produce a reference for good practices and lessons learned in implementing national gender action plans related to mine action. "We want to leave here with a set of practical examples of implementation and case studies that will inform the revision of the Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes in light of our experiences."
The United Nations Mine Action Service is located in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions. The United Nations Mine Action Service is the focal point for mine action among 14 United Nations departments, programmes, agencies, and funds that make up the United Nations Mine Action Team.
United Nations Mine Action Team organizations represented at the workshop are the United Nations Mine Action Service, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. All five of these entities have gender-mainstreaming policies.
The importance of gender equality in mine action programmes was first expressed in Security Council Resolution 1325 (in 2000) on Women, Peace and Security (S/RES/1325), which emphasized "the need for all parties to ensure that mine clearance and mine awareness programmes take into account the special needs of women and girls."