In-depth: Laying Landmines to Rest? Humanitarian Mine Action
PAKISTAN: Mine education for tribal women
All over the world agencies are trying to reach women with mine risk education to reduce deaths and injuries. Here girls in Yemen get training from Red Crescent staff
Parachinar, 1 November 2004 (IRIN) - In the back room of a community school in Parachinar, capital of Kurram tribal agency, one of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Nagina Khan stands before a group of 50 students - all women and girls. She is busy familiarising them with a variety of metal shapes.
As a Mine Risk Education (MRE) trainer, she starts her lecture by giving general information about landmines, and then goes on to explain the features of each of them through models to avoid any potential threat in daily life.
"Women listen to our lectures carefully, they realise that it is useful for them because they frequently come across these mines and UXOs [unexploded ordnance] in their daily life. We also tell them about first aid techniques, so that they can utilise them in case of any unpleasant incident," Nagina Ali, an MRE trainer working with the mine action project of the Community Motivation and Development Organisation (CMDO), told IRIN.
"We identified 405 landmine victims in our survey last year, only in the Parachinar area of Kurram agency with a death toll of 157," Faiz Muhammad Fayyaz, head of CMDO, the only organisation working in the mine action sector, told IRIN in Parachinar.
The long Afghan war has left hundreds of thousands of landmines scattered in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Out of a total seven tribal agencies under FATA, six have direct border links with Afghanistan. Mines were airdropped and laid in fields along the FATA side of the Afghan border by the Soviets to intimidate the local population against participating in the war in any manner.
"More than 55 training camps and supply depots were set up across the tribal belt to support Afghans against Soviets with some more in districts of Chaman, Qilla Abdullah and Qillah Saifullah of Balochistan province," Fayyaz said.
Landmines remain a common weapon in the region for settling tribal disputes or family feuds and can be openly purchased in many village bazaars, where they are offered for sale alongside locally made and imported machine guns, pistols and even anti-aircraft weapons.
Women who do not have ready access to public life and education as those in Pakistan and Afghanistan are in particular need of mine risk education. Here given by the Red Crescent.
Credit: CICR/SOHLBERG, Johan
Women are disproportionately threatened by land mines. In the tribal areas of Pakistan they are largely responsible for the provision of water for household use. This involves long treks through territory where unmarked mine fields are common, to lakes and springs. "So many mines are scattered in the area, sometimes one can see them floating in the water. Women usually get killed or injured while washing clothes in the rivers and streams, as well as stepping on the buried mines," Huma Ali, another MRE trainer, told IRIN.
"We arrange lectures in schools, mosques and sometimes by gathering the women of an area or village at someone's home," Ali said, adding: "Sometimes, it becomes difficult because we need to convince male family members first that these women need to attend the session."
A local woman, Khatoon Bibi, who attended the MRE session, underlined the danger. "Four years ago my son lost his eyes and both hands in a mine blast. He was playing with his friend when they found a butterfly shaped piece of metal and both decided to divide it into two halves so that each could have one piece. When he tried to break it with a hammer, it suddenly exploded injuring him severely."
Bibi told IRIN that now she recognises the shapes of mines and when she come across any of them in water or on the land she would completely avoid them. But she was sad for her child, "We can't manage the expenses for his artificial hands. Someone has told me he can get back his eyes as well but we have not money for that."
Rehabilitation and reintegration of female landmine victims is more critical. For reasons of tradition, injured women are usually not allowed to be examined by a male nurse or doctor, with many dying due to excessive loss of blood. Those who survive, often badly mutilated and in constant pain, are confined to the home. Most don't get married and because they are not educated or skilled they cannot earn a living. "They spend a miserable life being dependent on family members, this cannot go on, " Ali said.