All development programmes, whether focused on mine action or other sectors, gain from gender mainstreaming. Gender equality is a pre-condition for sustainable development, and a necessity if poverty and other injustices are to be overcome. As stated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):
“In most developing countries, gender inequality is a major obstacle to meeting the MDG [millennium development goals] targets. In fact, achieving the goals will be impossible without closing the gaps between women and men in terms of capacities, access to resources and opportunities, and vulnerability to violence and conflict.” (UNDP “Why gender matters in the Millennium Development Goals”)
With regard to mine action, women, girls, boys and men often hold different information related to landmine contamination in their communities. This is due to their different mobility patterns, social interventions and the gendered division of labour. Men, who in general are responsible for income generating activities, hold distinct information due to their specific income-generating responsibilities and tasks, whereas women often have information regarding the areas where they collect water, firewood and where they are involved in agricultural activities. If all groups are not consulted, vital and life-saving information may be lost. In victim assistance and MRE gender determines the access to, or impact of, mine action activities and services.
The inclusion of a gender perspective in mine action reduces the risk of exacerbating gender based injustices and inequalities. Mainstreaming gender within mine action policies, programmes and operations guarantees that the contributions, concerns and needs of all components of society are acknowledged and addressed without bias. It also benefits the community as a whole by ensuring a more coherent, holistic, multi-dimensional response to the different needs of mine-affected women, girls, boys and men. Gender mainstreaming in mine action is not only about equality, but also about quality.
There is a social cost of not mainstreaming gender in mine action. Including both females and males of different ages makes mine action more efficient and sustainable. The right question to ask is therefore not: How much does a gender initiative cost? but: Can we afford to leave gender out?