UNMAS: Empowering women, advancing mine action

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

New York | UNMAS

On 21 March 2017, United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) hosted a side event during the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, focusing on how women’s involvement in mine action both improved the effectiveness of mine action operations and boosted the economic and social standing of the women themselves.

The "Women in Mine Action" session was chaired by Llorenty Solíz, Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the UN. A panel was made up of three women who have broken through barriers in their own cultures and careers by working in mine action internationally.

The voices of women in mine action were also heard in two short videos, ‘Women in Mine Action’ and ‘Betty’, the latter profiling a female deminer from South Sudan.  

Notably, Nathalie Ochoa, Operations and Training Officer in the UNMAS Programme in Colombia, reflected on her personal experience as the first woman in the country to carry out demining activities. She is currently responsible for supporting the Colombian National Authority and NGOs to safely conduct operations.

“[In Colombia]… humanitarian demining will be crucial to end violence and to form the basis of peacebuilding agreement. I am proud to be a woman in mine action,” she stated.

Abigail Hartley, Chief of Policy, Advocacy, and Public Information of UNMAS, presented recent research by the Gender and Mine Action Programme showing that as a result of their involvement in mine action, women in Colombia and Lebanon were more respected by their families and seen as role models in their communities.

The event included government delegations and representatives of civil society. A Q&A session after the presentations included issues such as providing for needs of mothers working in mine action as well as the relevance of having geographical diversity among staff to properly address cultural challenges for women working in the sector.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of UNMAS, which was established in 1997 to be the coordinator of mine action in the UN. Learn more on the UNMAS website and check our latest updates on #UNMAS20.