More than one million peacekeepers have served for peace under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace. Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships. In this new series, we bring you the voices of peacekeepers and partners across the world, to mark the International Day of Peacekeepers, 29 May.
By: Rem Sreypy & Capt. Magaly Duong / Edited by: Maya Kelly
Rem Sreypy from Cambodia is one of the youngest deminers trained by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) deployed with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), working towards a mine-free south Lebanon. UNMAS and UN Peacekeeping work together with the national armed forces and local organizations to clear landmines in the area and train national authorities. Since 2006, UNIFIL Demining teams have cleared 4,885,900 square meters of land in south Lebanon, disposing of 47,221 items including mines, cluster bombs and unexploded ordinances.
As women deminers and peacekeepers, we play a vital role in our families and communities in showing the contributions that women make towards peace, and gender equality. ”
“At 21 years old, I am one of the youngest deminers trained by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). I come from a country (Cambodia) that experienced a civil war. It caused so much pain and suffering that destroyed everything, even our homes, families, and schools. In my lifetime, I have met so many victims who lost limbs, and lost family members… I needed to do something about it.
We all have a role to play in our societies in improving our living conditions, and everyone, everywhere, deserves to be happy, and to live in communities free from landmines.
Towards a mine-free south Lebanon
With UNIFIL, UNMAS and other partners, we are working to remove landmines, which continue to be a danger to the people living in south Lebanon. We are currently demining near the village of Meiss Ej-Jebel, along the Blue Line*. Every day we clear minefields to make this area safe.
We face many challenges during our daily operations, especially during the rainy season, when the soil becomes very muddy, making our work more difficult. We also encounter poisonous snakes and big rocks in the minefield.
Many of the minefields where we usually work are in open areas and close to local farms and villages. We conduct outreach with the local communities for their safety, so that they don’t come near our area of operations.
For me, the most rewarding part of this job is knowing that the land we are clearing will someday be used by the communities we came here to serve. Some day, I will see a south-Lebanon free of mines, with children and families running in the fields, families doing picnics during the weekend, farmers using the fields to farm, and children walking to schools safely. That’s my dream. It keeps me going.
Women in peacekeeping
Removing landmines takes great teamwork and coordination. Being able to work with a variety of colleagues from other countries, as well as local partners, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, deminers, and other partner organizations, has been an extraordinary opportunity.
I am currently working with nine other women deminers with the peacekeeping operation. It is exciting and inspiring to see women defying gender stereotypes and working in what has been mainly seen as men’s work. Through our courage, commitment and professionalism, we are opening doors for many more women to follow our footsteps.