Saila, a 29-year-old mother of two, is one of a growing number of women in Sri Lanka that have been recruited and trained by the UK de-mining charity HALO Trust - supported by UKaid funding from the Department for International Development.
Working seven hours a day in the baking heat, manual de-mining is slow, painstaking work. Scanning a square metre at a time with a metal detector, every beep over a certain strength means a slow, careful dig into the parched, solid earth - finger-tip work in case she’s found another mine. Working alongside men, with equal status, dozens of women like Saila are slowly helping clear mines from hundreds of acres of prime rice-producing land.
There are an unknown number of land mines littering the once verdant landscape of the Vanni. They’re a deadly legacy of the violent 26-year-long conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or ‘Tamil Tigers’) movement, which finally ended in May 2009. Saila knows all too well just how violent this conflict was; it cost her husband his life:
"I used to work as a co-ordinator in a rehabilitation centre, but had to leave because of the conflict. Then my husband was killed in the fighting. Now my mother has to look after my daughters, while I do this work”.
To read more about Saila's story, please visit: www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/Case-Studies/2010/Landmine-lad...
For more on the HALO Trust, visit: www.halotrust.org
Image © Russell Watkins / Department for International Development