Reporter's Diary: The Women De-mining Sri Lanka
In 2011, Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent Nita Bhalla went to Mannar in northern Sri Lanka and met a group of women who had taken on the unusual and rather frightening job of removing landmines. Three years later, she returned, with a camera, to document the work of these women, who are survivors of an almost three-decade-long war. It is estimated that over one million landmines were laid in the Indian Ocean island's north and east during the conflict which pitted separatist Tamil Tiger fighters against government forces. When the war ended in May 2009, around 2,000 square km of land was contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance. Now only 80 square km is left - making it one of the big post-war successes of Sri Lanka. While most of the de-mining is done by the army, aid groups such as the Mines Advisory Group hire women, as well as men to the job, after providing training and competitive payments for their work. They attend a camp for three weeks learning about the types of explosives and landmines they are likely to encounter, plus skills and techniques to search and mark landmines.