"I used to be a farmer. My
background is useful because even if the weather conditions are
difficult I can still do my job. At that time my husband and I had no
cash income so it was hard to look after our baby. So when MAG was
recruiting VAC (Village Assisted Clearance) team members, I applied. At
first I cut vegetation, then I was trained to use a detector. The
technical field manager saw I had progressed and encouraged me to apply
to become a technician. I passed the test. Then after a while I was
promoted to deputy team leader and now team leader. My family are very
proud, and I am happy! I enjoy managing things - the team members, the
equipment and the site. And I remember everything I have learned during
the training. To ge a good team leader you must show your love for your
team members. You must discuss everything with them, and carefully go
through the workplan with them each day. And you must help anyone who
Sidavone Sipaseuth, 30
Deputy Team Leader
"I want to clear UXO from my country because my older sister lost one eye and injured her leg in a UXO accident 15 years ago. She was digging in a field near our house [in Houay Dok Kham village, the site of one of MAG's projects] when her shovel hit a hombie under the surface and it exploded. I have a lot of experience. I worked for UXO Lao, the national clearance agency, for six years, but MAG has trained me further - on how to use new types of detectors and how to conduct a demolition. Part of being a good deputy team leader is about trying to build good team spirit. We haven't worked together long but we already enjoy sharing jokes with each other!"
Manisia Thorthongyer, 19
"Our team can show
that women can do anything! I want people to know that Lao women are as
strong as women from other countries. I have heard lots of stories
about UXO accidents involving farmers. UXO is dangerous, but if we
follow what we have learnt during training, we are not at risk. I was
very happy to receive training about detectors, different types of UXO
and basic first aid."
Vansom Pimavong, 30
"I am divroced and have
three young children. I also support my aunt who lives with us. Before
joining the women's team, I worked as a cleaner in the MAG office for
two years, but I wanted to change my job so I applied for this
position. I am happy to be working with UXO, because I want to make the
land safe for Lao people. In my village I saw the aftermath of a UXO
accident where two people were killed and two injured. Someone was
trying to dismantle a bomb in order to sell the scrap metal."
Maxmanee Mangnormek, 21
"When I heard about the
vacancies for the women's team I wanted to join. I find it easy to work
with other women, our personalities are similar and we know how to work
together. We can work just as well as the men. I have seen photographs
of UXO accident victims. I am not scared of UXO, but I know we have to
Boualapha Inthavongsa, 24
"I have worked for MAG
for three years. None of our staff have been injured by UXO in that
time, but once I stabilised a villager who was injured in a UXO
accident. The team members do get injuries such as cuts from vegetation
cutting machines, insect bites and so on. I also have to check the
health of the teams before and during their work. It could be dangerous
if they were not able to concentrate. Before I was the only female in
the team! I like being in a women's team, I have lots of friends. I
also eat better now as Lao women bring more food to share than Lao men!"
Vonekham Dalavong, 29
"Since joining MAG I
sleep better than I used to - you sleep better when you work outside
all day. A used to work as an accountant in an office, but I was bored
working at a computer so I applied for this job. I used to be a farmer
and still enjoy working with my hands and being outside. Three of my
aunt's children were killed by UXO in my village, Ban Vieng Khoan, a
few years ago. They all died in an instant. My village is highly
contaminated - we have UXO accidents every year. I hope MAG will work
there in the future."
Sonedavanh Somphoneheung, 34
"I will miss my
children, who are aged eight and three, when I am away working in rural
areas, but without this job we won't have money to raise them, as my
husband doesn't have a job. He is pleased I have this opportunity. In
the past I worked as a nurse in a hospital, but I have been out of work
for the last two years before getting this job."
Bouakham Keophomma, 19
"I joined MAG because
there are no job opportunities in my village. This is a good job. I
enjoyed the training, although it took some time to learn to use the
detectors properly! MAG reduces the risk of accidents for villagers and
clears land so they can increase the quantity of food they can grow."
Souksavanh Thongtimahaxay, 23
"I am the
tallest member of the team, but unfortunately I am about the only
person who doesn't play volleyball! My uncle was killed in a UXO
accident in 1991. He made a fire to keep warm, and there was a bomb
below the surface, which exploded. I am proud to be part of the first
women's team in the province."
Davanh Simmavong, 24
"Our team usually travels
together, but so far we did not receive much attention from men who see
us. I think they must be scared of us! I finished my teacher training
last year but decided to join MAG instead. Both jobs help the community
in different ways. My friends think this job is a good opportunity for
me. As women, the only difficulty we face is that we are not as strong
as the men, but I think in some ways we work better. We don't let our
emotions come to the surface so quickly, so we can work more smoothly."
Vienglada Siladeth, 45
"I like to read the
newspapers and in the past I sometimes read stories about UXO
accidents. Now I am actually involved in helping to solve the problem.
I was interested to apply when I heard that MAG wants to promote women.
Now I am the team's 'older sister' - I am married with four chldren.
The training was good - I had never seen a metal detector before! It
was fun for me. There is no difference between what men and women can
do. We received the same training and we can do the same tasks.