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Women clear Sri Lanka’s landmine legacy

MANNAR, October 5, 2010 (AFP) – Valmathi Jegadas is a different sort of mine clearer to the testosterone-fuelled explosives specialists portrayed in the 2008 Oscar-winning Hollywood hit, The Hurt Locker. A farmer’s wife in northern Sri Lanka, Jegadas, 37, earns 200 dollars a month risking her life, and she admits being scared each time she steps into the minefields that are a legacy of the island’s long and bloody civil war.

“This is the best-paying job in my village,” Jegadas, who has three children, told AFP, adding that her mother and husband were both killed in 2007 by artillery attacks.

Since joining the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) nearly a year ago, Jegadas says she has disabled more than 700 mines in Mannar district.

She works along former defence lines of the separatist Tamil Tigers, the rebel guerrilla force who fought the government for decades before being finally defeated in May last year.

Increasingly, international humanitarian organisations are training women to find and defuse mines.
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“Women carry the burden after the war in most homes. They want the money, and they don’t take short-cuts when clearing mines,” said Nigel Peacock, a technical advis

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