The International Day of the Girl celebrates the voices of powerful girls around the world as they take on the issues that matter to them.
To mark this year's International Day of the Girl, we're telling the inspiring story of Deolinda Tchihinga - known to her friends and colleagues throughout MAG as Minga.
Ten years ago, in a small Angolan village, Minga's life changed in the violent flash of an explosion.
As a six-year-old, Minga picked up a small shiny object she thought was a toy. It exploded in her hands. The explosion permanently blinded Minga and her right arm had to be amputated.
MAG had been working in Angola for over 15 years at the time when tragedy struck Minga. And her story was, sadly, similar to that of thousands of children in the region.
Forty years of conflict left Angola with a deadly legacy of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
Thanks to the generous support of our donors, MAG has been able to provide life-changing services for Minga, including a scholarship to attend a school for deaf and blind students in the Angolan capital Moxico.
Minga is now proficient in reading and writing in Braille and has mastered a custom-made, one-handed Braille typewriter for completing her classwork.
Minga has been at the school since 2014 and, to date, her favourite subjects include chemistry and civic education - she has a strong sense of civic pride and duty. At school. Minga has grown personally and made friends from outside of her home village, over an hour away.
As Minga entered the final years of her schooling, MAG recognised a unique opportunity for her to enhance her education while fulfilling her sense of civic duty by helping MAG continue our critical work. Working around her school schedule, Minga secured a paid internship with MAG.
In Angola, MAG delivers life-saving risk education classes in local communities, alerting children and their families to the dangers of landmines. These classes allow MAG staff to teach children just like Minga. As a survivor, Minga took an internship in the risk education department to use her voice and experience to help prevent other children from suffering in the way she did. The role also helps Minga develop professional skills like public speaking and lesson planning.
Minga is MAG's first youth team member and has undertaken 44 hours of intensive training and delivered a risk education final coursework project to her classmates. To date, Minga has delivered more than 20 classes to over 400 people.
"MAG considers me a human being," Minga said when asked about her internship. "I have learned a lot, and am continuing to learn. MAG made me feel important in our community, working with other colleagues as an equal."
"Being a mine victim, I like to talk about the effects of mines and unexploded ordnance on people and their livelihoods, how [they] injure, maim, and kill. I talk about myself, how as a child, I lost my sight and a limb due to unexploded ordnance. That is the moment where I can convey my message in a way to influence people’s behaviour, so they know to avoid touching or handling suspicious items, avoid entering areas marked as dangerous, and report any suspicious items to the authorities."
"Since MAG started working in my community, many areas have been cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance and made safe. This allows safe movement of people and goods, more fields for farming, more housing. Thanks to these risk education classes, the numbers of mine accidents have reduced.
Minga is an incredible young woman who has overcome adversity many of us cannot grasp, but her story is not unique. There are millions of children around the world that live with the threat of landmines and bombs in their backyards, their playgrounds, and their schools.
Minga is determined to do what she can to protect children, "I want my messages as a victim of unexploded ordnance to trigger in others a change of behaviour, so that they take seriously the risk and danger of mines and unexploded ordnance."
On International Day of the Girl, we commend and thank Minga for her perseverance, resilience, and dedication to her community.