Goto main content

Demining in Colombia: Women to take leading role in mine clearance

Explosive weapons

Handicap International is preparing to launch mine clearance operations in Colombia after it was appointed by the government to clear contaminated land in three of the country's departments. Since April 2016 three teams of deminers have been trained and at least 40% of the deminers will be women.

demining landmines colombia Handicap International

A deminer takes part in a training exercise before operations begin. | © J.M. Vargas/Handicap International

I saw children die for a war that wasn’t theirs

Marta Quintero will oversee Handicap International's five-year demining project in the department of Meta. She has never forgotten a lucky escape she had when she was a teenager.

“When I was fourteen I stumbled on a mine as I was walking through my village. It was damp so it didn’t go off."

“I saw people maimed by mines when I was growing up. I saw children die for a war that wasn’t theirs. Like many people, violence had a big impact on us. And now I’m a mine clearance expert. I really love my work. I can’t tell you how great it feels when I finish clearing a mined area.”

Building relationships of trust

Marta is one of a number of local women whose day job will be to save lives. Handicap International is aiming to ensure that at least 40% of the people on its demining teams are women. Making sure that a significant proportion of the newly trained deminers are women has been a specific objective for Handicap International as the organisation prepares to undertake demining in Colombia, which, after Afghanistan, has the second worst contamination from landmines of any country on the planet.  Irène Manterola, Handicap International's Director in Colombia explains:

“There are currently 17 women and 33 men on our teams. Women play a vital role as they are responsible, highly motivated, and their social skills are essential if you’re living in camps  with other people. Women are fair leaders and respected. They build relationships of trust with villagers, who tell them where the mines are."

Irène goes on to say that Colombia is a very 'macho' society  and she hopes that having local women undertake such important roles in their communities will help, in a small way, to change the way that women are viewed in Colombia.

Find out more about the new demining project in Colombia

Date published: 07/02/17


Where we work

Read more

Reducing the impact of conflict
© Kelvin Batumike / HI
Explosive weapons

Reducing the impact of conflict

Humanity & Inclusion’s Armed Violence Reduction department supervises clearance, risk education, conflict transformation programs - activities that play a vital role in the reconstruction of countries after war.

HI continues activities in Afghanistan
© HI
Emergency Explosive weapons Rehabilitation

HI continues activities in Afghanistan

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is steadily resuming its activities in four provinces - Herat, Kunduz, Kandahar and Nimroz. After more than 30 years of war, the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are immense.

Life is returning to normal in Chad
© G.Dubourthoumieu / HI
Explosive weapons Inclusion Rehabilitation

Life is returning to normal in Chad

From weapons clearance to helping individuals set up their own business, HI has stepped up its actions in aid of the population of northern Chad with the aim of promoting development in the region.