This International Women’s Day, we’re sharing the stories of some incredible women who work with us around the world.
Whether they clear landmines and unexploded bombs or provide life-saving lessons to families, they are living proof that there is no better tool for development than women’s empowerment.
Because, as these stories so beautifully show, empowering women empowers whole communities.
Salwa is the leader of a team of deminers in Iraq made up of Yazidi women, all aged under 25.
"My job is amazing," she says. "In my community, we don't really differentiate between men and women. A woman is strong. I feel so good about the work we do – we are making a massive contribution and we work together like sisters."
They have all been affected by conflict, losing family members, homes or friends. In spite of this, they remain strong, dedicated and extremely proud of their work.
Salwa’s salary also supports eleven people in her family.
"This job is very important to me. I can help my people," she says.
Ly knows what it’s like to grow up in an area littered with landmines and bombs.
And for the last 17 years she’s been doing something about it, clearing these indiscriminate killers in her home province.
As a result, Ly’s community has prospered as land became safe to farm. Her family also directly benefit from her work.
"My family situation was very difficult. But since I started working there has been a big improvement – I have a stable job and my children can have a better education and a better future," says Ly.
Manixia is our most senior national staff member in Laos, managing nearly 200 people doing incredibly dangerous jobs clearing unexploded bombs.
She wants to use her success to inspire other women to breakdown stereotypes and become leaders in their field. Here is her advice:
"Have confidence in your ability and be yourself."
Manixia has also presented at UN Women’s workshops to promote women’s leadership.
"I often heard UXO [unexploded ordnance] clearance being described as a difficult job and not for women," says Manixia. "Not everyone can do it, but we have shown that men and women can do it equally as well."
Manixia shows us the benefits of women being front and centre in their field.
Fatima – mother to triplets AND twins – removes landmines along the border between Lebanon and Israel. Thousands of mines have been cleared here in the last few years.
"When I found my first mine, I was a little bit scared, but after that I just felt proud," she says. "I feel like I’m achieving something that has value."
When insurgents attacked her village, Naomi was able to flee into the bush with her mother and sister. Many others in her village were not so fortunate.
Now Naomi has turned her life around, leading a team that teaches families about the dangers of landmines and unexploded bombs.
Her lessons involve games and drama to be able to fully resonate with children, who are most at risk.
When an interesting object could be a landmine or bomb, a child’s curiosity can be fatal.
The work of people like Naomi, and all of the women above, means it doesn’t need to be.
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