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Nail polish and flak jackets: Women in the minefields

Nail polish and flak jackets: Women in the minefields

T HE Mines Advisory Group's ambitious experiment of training widows and handicapped

as deminers is paying off, with the trainees becoming more self-confident and worthy.

Ton So Kha, 30, a widow with two children who lost her husband to a mine in 1991,

says her life is richer and more stable now. Her children now go to school "and

perhaps soon I can buy a house instead of rent" with the $170 per month salary.

So Kha used to sell sweets; now she finds and digs out the very bombs that killed

her husband. Before MAG "was an awful lifetime for me. My floating life depended

on relatives. So I forced myself to be a deminer, even though I was so scared because

my husband died for them... It's all right for me now," she says. "This

is my routine job which I repeat every day.

There have been no accidents with the women or handicapped deminers. Asian regional

director of MAG, Chris Horwood, said that his initial fears that perhaps the women

would not be accepted working in the mine fields was totally unfounded. "There

is no problem... they are very strict and conscientious," he said. Horwood said

that he wantd to give a chance to all those people who may get the benefit from something

from which they had once lost so heavily. MAG will employ 40 more women and amputees

next year, according to Horwood. "I thought that his job was only for men. But

my thoughts fell away. Here, we have many women who're doing the same jobs as men

do," deminer Sou Sophia said.

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