This is an extract of an article "Tailoring Explosive Ordnance Risk Education: How MAG Addresses Gender/Cultural Sensitivities and Local Risk-Taking Behavior" that appeared in the latest issue of The Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction.

MAG delivers life-saving lessons in 14 countries. And in each community in which we work, we have adapted our messages to reach as many people as possible, including the most vulnerable and isolated.

In each context, we assess the threat levels of explosive ordnance (EO), how people behave when faced with that risk, and consider the best times and the best ways to reach people to share safety messages, both face to face, via the radio and online. We are respectful of the different needs within our communities, so we are continuously improving our lessons to account for gender, diversity and conflict sensitivity. 

Our messages are relevant, simple, accurate, accessible, and culturally sensitive, so we can better reach even more people living in, visiting, or working in areas with explosive ordnance.

Our life-saving lessons are designed to help people to:

  • understand the threat
  • recognise explosive devices
  • tell the difference between a dangerous and a safe, or safer, area
  • understand what risk-taking behaviour is and its potential consequences
  • know what to report and to whom when spotting explosive ordnance
  • choose actions that increase personal safety
  • be empowered to assist others when encountering EO, or an EO incident

In May 2021, a MAG team received a call reporting a bomb in a village in Sinjar, Iraq. When they arrived to assess the area, they were shocked to find a group of children playing with an unexploded artillery shell in the street.

Tailoring lessons

When our community liaison teams first visit a new location, they assess the likely contamination of an area, learn how it was affected by conflict, and find out what types of unexploded ordnance might still be present. Where possible, teams work with sources of first-hand knowledge, including former combatants living locally or returning to the area, who can tell us where landmines have been laid. 

With this information, our lessons include details of patterns of landmines (around strategic points, like road junctions, power lines and other assets). We also have to consider there may have been several waves of fighting, with multiple conflicts overlapping. Here, the threat of harm increases in these high-risk areas.

A MAG team delivers life-saving lessons through a puppet show for children in Lebanon.

Using the right medium and words

We do not use a ‘one-size fits all’ for awareness-raising, as the risks a 10-year-old school pupil takes are different from those of a 50-year-old hunter or a 25-year-old farmer.

We design different lessons, making sure we target each group by considering, among other factors, age, gender, cultural background and disability. The experience and perception of risk will be different for everyone.

We work directly with partners, including influencers, male and female community leaders, adolescent boys, women’s rights organisations and more. These stakeholders help us shape our messages to reach as many people as we can — in a way that is easily understood and helpful.

In every country and region, we actively recruit our team members from the communities we work to support. This has helped us gain a rich and deep understanding of an area’s background, community composition, history, conflict impact, humanitarian challenges, and types of contamination.

In South Sudan, for example, we realised that men are more difficult to reach than women, girls, and boys, as men tend to join community life-saving lesson sessions far less frequently. As in other countries, men (and boys) are at greater risk, sadly, as they are far more likely to be killed or injured by unexploded ordnance than women. So, we make sure we schedule life-saving lessons at cattle camps and between grazing to reach as many men as possible.

We will keep improving our lessons to include both visual and audio elements. Those with sight impairments miss out on key content in banners and pictures, and those with hearing impairments miss out on the live presentations and narration. In some regions in the Middle East, we work with partners to deliver lessons with staff who use sign language.

In Myanmar, we developed several videos in local languages, including Jinghpaw, Shan, and Burmese, to raise awareness about the dangers of landmines and unexploded ordnance, and to share safety warnings widely within communities in Kachin and northern Shan states — in partnership with Sin Sar Bar, a local social media enterprise.

One of these videos featured the Kachin celebrity Daw K Jar Nuu, and another the Shan musician Ko Han Tun. These celebrities were ideal as their household name status meant a broader audience watched the videos and listened to the crucial safety messages.

Further videos were developed with the dance group Revolution Dance Crew to use modern dance choreography to communicate key safety messages. Local spoken word artists provided a poem in the voiceover that captured the main life-saving lessons.

Play Video

The BOMB video created by MAG Myanmar

More to do

We know our life-saving lessons prevent harm and injury in the countries in which we work — but we need to do more. We will continue to innovate our approaches, messages, and means of sharing messages — in-person and online. Working closely with the communities we support, we can ensure that every lesson counts, saving lives today and in the future.