A major cross-cutting theme of Mines Action Canada’s work is gender and how it relates to disarmament. This has resulted from 25 years of experience witnessing the different effects weapons and conflict have on boys and girls as well as women and men. We cannot end the problems nor adequately assist those injured or harmed if we do not take into account the different gendered impacts and experiences.

For far too long, disarmament at the grassroots, national and international levels was considered “men’s work.” This mistaken assumption has resulted in a well below average involvement of women in disarmament policy and practice with very serious consequences. 

Gender doesn’t mean biological sex or just talking about women. It means the socially constructed ideas of how we are supposed to act as women and men or non-binary identities. The different roles men, women, girls and boys play in a society, their gender roles, can influence how they are impacted by weapons.  If collecting firewood is women’s work, only women may know about landmines in the forest. If, for example, mine action surveys do not speak with women, it will be easy to overlook contaminated areas that only affect women. Without hearing from women and girls, the priorities for clearance might miss out on some of the highest risk areas.

One of Mines Action Canada’s priorities is to increase the number of women, especially young women, working in disarmament and to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making about disarmament. When disarmament is inclusive, programs are more effective and we will reach our goals faster. 

Mines Action Canada works with our partners to promote inclusive decision-making and treaty implementation. The Mine Action Fellows youth program is explicitly designed to increase the number of young women who can meaningfully participate in national and international decision-making about humanitarian disarmament. The program has a majority of women and participants of all genders receive training on gender mainstreaming. The goal is to ensure that all youth campaigners can advocate for gender equity in disarmament.

There are significant links between work on gender and disarmament and the work on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Following the ground-breaking United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the international community has recognized that women and girls are affected by armed conflict in different ways and they have the right to participate in peace talks and post-conflict decision making. As is the case with disarmament programs, research has shown that peace agreements are more successful when women are involved. There are now eight Women, Peace and Security resolutions calling on states to ensure the rights and participation of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. MAC continues to work to strengthen the links between humanitarian disarmament and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Canada and internationally. We believe disarmament is an area where the Women, Peace and Security agenda can not only make much needed progress but call also have a major impact internationally on both peace and disarmament.

You can read all our news about Gender and Disarmament here. The civil society Gender and Diversity in Mine Action Working Group and Reaching Critical Will are also key resources on this topic.