Women play a crucial role in global humanitarian disarmament initiatives. Mines Action Canada (MAC) knows that involving women and girls is key to achieving a more peaceful and sustainable future free of indiscriminate weapons.
In the 20 years since the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, we have seen that it is imperative that all perspectives are incorporated into mine action. We have learned that the elimination of landmines and effective victim assistance programming are impossible goals without the inclusion of women and girls.
Women, men, girls and boys all experience conflict differently and the impact of landmines is engendered. Female survivors experience many different challenges than male survivors do and women and men face differing risks from landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. For these reasons, those working to eliminate these weapons must acknowledge these gender differences and provide services which are accessible for both sexes. MAC, and the humanitarian disarmament campaigns we participate in, are focused on gender equality and mainstreaming gender initiatives into our work at all levels.
We benefit from strong women leading the majority of disarmament campaigns internationally. For example, all of the directors of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) have been female. The first director of the ICBL was Jody Williams who shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize with the campaign. Since then, the ICBL has had multiple female directors, including the current director of the ICBL-CMC, Megan Burke. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the International Network on Explosive Weapons, and Control Arms are also women led.
At the national level we see further female leadership. Margaret Arach Orech is an excellent example of women leading in disarmament. A landmine survivor from Uganda, Margaret is an ambassador for the ICBL, a globally recognized expert on survivor inclusion and assistance and is the founder of the Uganda Landmine Survivor Association. There are women like Margaret participating and leading in every aspect of mine action, specifically mine risk education, clearance, and victim assistance. We see women conducting risk education, clearing landmines, providing assistance to victims, monitoring the treaty and doing advocacy around the world. Since women’s empowerment and participation is an objective of the Canadian government, it is crucial that Global Affairs Canada recognizes and supports women leaders, like Margaret, in all aspects of mine action and disarmament.
It has been 20 years since the Ottawa Treaty was signed, and without the hard work of women around the world every single day of those 20 years the mine action and disarmament communities would be nowhere near as successful as we have been.
MAC believes that the next generation of women leaders will be the ones to finish the job on landmines and on all disarmament campaigns. Therefore, our key focus for 2017 is increasing young women’s involvement in disarmament, peace and security. MAC hopes to host young women from mine-affected countries at a Young Women’s Leaders Forum during the Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Treaty in December 2017. Since it is the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, it is a great time to bring the next generation of women leaders into the disarmament world. To help make this plan a reality, please consider donating to MAC.
Chelsea Wright is an Graduate Student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University and a Research Associate at Mines Action Canada.