Much impressive Viet Nam’s first all-women demining team: Norwegian Ambassador
|Norwegian Ambassador Grete Lochen and Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh (the second person from the right), Provincial Programme Manager and Manager of Project RENEW All-Women Demining Team in Viet Nam. (Photo: Norway's Ambassy in Viet Nam)|
You’ve visited Quang Tri and met with the first all-female demining team in Viet Nam who cleared the unexploded objects. How do you think about their work?
I visited Quang Tri in 2019 where I first met the Viet Nam’s first all-women demining team.
Quang Tri was the former demilitarized zone divided North and South Viet Nam from 1954 to 1975 and experienced some of the heaviest bombing in world history. Most of the team members were in their early thirties, young faces, humble but very dedicated.
The youngest member was Tuyet Nhi – 25 years old. Each of them had their own reasons to choose this “dangerous” job. However, most of them have witnessed a villager or even their family members being killed or injured by explosive remnants of war, and thus want to contribute to free their homeland from mines, protecting their families and local people.
Clearance of contaminated areas is essential to alleviating poverty and to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Cleared land can be released to local communities for agriculture, infrastructure and tourism and as such paves the way for social and economic development. I got the strong impression that the demining teams in Quang Tri province fully understand the importance of their work.
As we're still having conversations about the need for gender equality in all fields, mine action is no exception. In any peace building efforts, including mine action, we cannot exclude women – representation of half of the population.
From what I heard from the team members, I know not all of them got support from their families and relatives because this is a dangerous task and they have to face risks of death every day. However, these women fully understand these risks as well as the importance of mine clearing efforts for their families and communities.
That is why I admired these women a lot for their bravery to overcome the stereotype of what is a man’s job vs a woman’s job, their strength and determination. In fact, they are doing their jobs as well as their men colleagues and sometimes even better. They are not quitters.
Would you please share any case or any story you feel impressed about this team?
The very fact that Viet Nam has its first-ever all-women demining team is impressive itself, not only to me but I believe to every Vietnamese person. This has broken all the long-rooted stereotype and perceptions of mine action being a men-only field. Women can do whatever men can, even with the same quality and level of efficiency.
However, what also impressed me happened in the open debate in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on “Mine action and sustaining peace: Stronger partnerships for better delivery” in April 2021!
Last year, both Norway and Viet Nam served at UNSC as elected members, and we shared numerous thematic priorities including protection of civilians and women, peace and security. The open debate heard from some of the world’s leading advocates and experts on mine clearance.
Among them was Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, Provincial Programme Manager and Manager of Project RENEW All-Women Demining Team in Viet Nam, who was born and raised in Quang Tri province. With her confidence and 12 years’ hands-on experience in mine action, the inspiring presentation of this tiny woman received a round of long applause from the debate's participants, which hardly happens in very formal UNSC meetings.
|Norway has increased funding for clearance in Viet Nam since 2020. (Photo: Norway's Ambassador in Viet Nam)|
Officially, how does Norwegian Embassy support them?
One might ask why Norway is so engaged in mine action efforts.
The answer is very simple: Our point of departure is the need to protect people from the effects of the deadly weapons of cluster munitions and mines.
Thus, it is a priority for Norway to encourage countries to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions as well as the Mine Ban Treaty. And we all know that it is the civilian population, particularly vulnerable groups such as women and children who are the main victims of these weapons, and in many years after the conflict has ended.
Norway has been supporting mine action for 25 years, and we are currently funding mine action in 20 countries and areas. Norway is one of the five largest donors to efforts to clear mines and cluster munitions, together with the US, Germany, the EU and Japan.
|"Norway has been supporting mine action for 25 years, and we are currently funding mine action in 20 countries and areas. Norway is one of the five largest donors to efforts to clear mines and cluster munitions, together with the US, Germany, the EU and Japan."|
In 2021 alone, Norway provided at least NOK 300 million (USD 35 million) to global mine action. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs works in direct partnership with mine clearance operators such as NPA, MAG, Halo Trust. They have vast experience from all parts of the world, and have also been at the forefront of developing international standards for survey and clearance for the whole sector.
We are happy to see Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) present and active in Viet Nam since 2008 to support the country’s mine action efforts. NPA is one of the three largest humanitarian mine clearance organisations in the world, and the trusted partner of the Norwegian Government when it comes to mine action.
I am also pleased to confirm that Norway has increased funding for clearance in Viet Nam since 2020 through NPA and the Embassy is closely following the actions taken by the Vietnamese authorities and its increased willingness to work with all stakeholders in the sector, also internationally.
Mine action efforts do not merely mean clearing lands and saving lives, they would ultimately contribute significantly to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Clearance of unexploded objects is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. The importance of the COVID-19 economic recovery underscores this fact.
"In Viet Nam, men and an increasingly larger number of women have been working in mixed teams together since 2008. However, the view was still that one team could not operate without men. This was why NPA decided to start up an all-female clearance team in Viet Nam in 2018. All team members are female and they conduct the same job as all men team or teams that are mixed. This has proven to change the view of many people visiting the all-female team, where they can see and experience that this team do not need any men to be able to work to same standards" - NPA's country Director Mr. Jan Erik Stoa.