The Cambodian Mine Action Center has enlisted women to help clear the country’s mine fields, which until now, has been a male-only occupation, a CMAC official said Sunday.
Some 18 women have been recruited for CMAC’s de-mining operations in Battambang province, said Khem Sophoan, the director-general of CMAC. The women, between the ages of 18 and 30, completed their intensive six-week training course earlier this month.
“Women now express that they want to be in the work force, rather than stay at home, ” Khem Sophoan said.
He added: “We need young people who can learn fast and have the energy to perform the job well.”
Women bring a different set of skills to the job, working more thoroughly and diligently in the field, Khem Sophoan said, whereas men generally have greater physical strength.
Khem Sophoan said the center’s first team of women began clearing mines early last week in Battambang’s Kamrieng district. They will receive a monthly salary of about $80, in addition to a piece of land that they help to demine, he said.
Battambang has one of the highest concentrations of land mines in the country, Khem Sophoan said, adding that mine clearance in that province could take as long as 10 years to complete. Pailin is considered to have the second highest number of land mines in Cambodia.
“Pailin will be our next pilot project in 2005, where we will again recruit local residents,” he said.
Last year, CMAC reported that about 700 people had been killed or injured by land mines left strewn across the country after decades of war.