On March 8 the world will observe International Women’s Day. The theme chosen by the United Nations this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. International Women’s Day presents us with an opportunity to celebrate the political, social, economic and cultural achievements of women and girls around the world.
At RENEW, this is an opportunity for us to recognize the contributions of women who play a key role in ongoing joint efforts to address the lingering challenges caused by the legacies of a war that ended 47 years ago. Launched in 2001 as a cooperative program between the government of Quang Tri Province and international NGOs, RENEW integrates Risk Education, Victim Assistance, and Survey and Clearance into a coordinated program of action – the only such model in Vietnam.
From a core staff of four personnel in 2001, RENEW has grown to a full complement of 265 employees, 30 percent of whom are women. Women have become an essential part of our local human resources needed to deal with unexploded bombs and delivery of assistance services to the families affected by the war legacies in Quang Tri Province. As we approach International Women’s Day, please join with us in recognizing the brave and dedicated women who are leading the way in the field of mine action.
“When I started to work in mine action, there were only a few women working in operational roles, usually as a medic or translator,” said Ms. Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh, who joined RENEW in 2009 as a translator. In her current role as Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) Provincial Program Manager at RENEW, this mother of two is responsible for all activities, from overseeing finance and operations to donor reporting, to coordinating with partners. “People now see women working in mine action as something normal now, and they really respect the women working in mine action as very strong and very brave,” Linh said.
Ms. Grete Løchen, Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam, recalled her visit to RENEW-NPA in 2019 in a video message to RENEW on its 20th anniversary. “I met the all-women Vietnamese clearance team,” said Ambassador Løchen. “I saw the importance of the coordinated and holistic approach when it comes to mine action in terms of survey, clearance, mine risk education, victim assistance, and of course ensuring a gender perspective in all aspects of mine action activities.”
Ms. Trinh Thi Hong Tham, the team leader, is a native of Gio Linh District. She joined RENEW in 2015. Tham had worked with many different teams at RENEW-NPA before she was promoted to lead this all-women emergency response team last December. This 32-year-old mother has an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Level 2 certification issued by Norwegian People’s Aid.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Ai Luu joined RENEW in 2017 as a Program Assistant. The 30-year-old mother from Gio Linh District is the person at RENEW’s Victim Assistance/Disability Support Program who maintains daily contact with beneficiary families through local disabled persons associations. Luu is responsible for coordinating with local authorities to conduct needs assessments among families of bomb accident survivors, agent orange / dioxin victims, and other disabled persons.
Gender responsiveness and sensitivity have been one of the priorities for RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Risk Education program funded by Irish Aid. Accordingly, risk education sessions are designed and implemented at various levels to ensure that project activities reach out to diverse groups of boys, girls, men, and women regardless of their ethnicity, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status.
Since 2008, RENEW has partnered with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), one of the leading humanitarian disarmament and mine action organizations from Norway, to implement a survey and clearance of explosive ordnance in Quang Tri Province, thanks to funding provided by the U.S. Department of State. Together with other international mine action organizations, RENEW-NPA is committed to assisting provincial authorities to achieve the goal of making Quang Tri Province safe from the impact of explosive ordnance in 2025.