They’re fearless. Meet the deminers who bravely take risks by clearing landmines in the most contaminated areas in Cambodia. Mot Huot is 32 and father to a three-year old boy. Twenty years ago, he worked as soldier in Siemreap Province, with salary for a monthly wage of KHR 220,000 ($55). When he learned about a job opportunity as a deminer in neighboring Battambang province, he signed up for the training.
Meanwhile, Inn Phearum, 29 years old with a two-year old son, was also a low-wage earner before becoming a trained deminer. Both men did not have the opportunity to finish school but both longed to provide a better income for their families.
Huot and Phearum go through a three-months training course provided by the National Peace Keeping Forces Mine/ERW Clearance training center (NPMEC) in Ordong District, Kampong Speu Province. Here, they learned basic theory how to use mine detectors, follow standard operating procedures and practice safety, among others.
In 2010, they were sent to clear landmine in Lebanon for one year and in 2011 until now they are among the growing number of deminers working at NPMEC in Pailin province, one of the most heavily mined areas in western Cambodia.
“It was my decision to become a deminer,” says Huot. “I am an uneducated man who has not enough income to support my family. If I weren’t a deminer, I would still be a normal soldier earning much less,” he shares. As deminers, each of the deminer is paid $200 per month, gets life and medical insurance.
Through the Clearing for Results project, the United Nations Development Programme has been mainstreaming gender in the mine action sector by advancing the vital role of women in public participation and planning. The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) which implements the project, has instituted the Gender in Mine Action Plan (GAP). As the lead government agency that regulates, monitors and coordinates the mine action sector, CMAA through the GAP ensures that it promotes equal access to women and men in clearance work, including in planning and prioritization.
“There still limit of number of women working in landmine/ERW clearance, through GAP will evaluate if women and men equally benefit from demining activities (e.g. training, employment opportunities),” says Peang Sovannary, CMAA’s gender focal person.
“However, there are some areas where gender inequality persists, such as the number of women attending planning meetings. Greater focus on participation at the local level to promote gender equality would assist in increasing women’s involvement in planning and prioritization,” she states.
In addition, traditional gender roles often prevent women from participating in public life and therefore have limited influence in the planning process, thus potentially impeding on the legitimacy and success of the process.
“I would encourage other people to be a deminer so they can earn more income,” says Phearum who has by far detected hundred of landmines. “I am not afraid because we had a good training. You just have to be careful and follow the SOP,” he says.