On World Humanitarian Day 2019, MAG is honoring women humanitarians who make an invaluable contribution to their communities and strive to make the world a better place. MAG finds and destroys landmines, cluster munitions and unexploded bombs in places affected by conflict. Since 1989, we have helped over 18 million people in 68 countries rebuild their lives and livelihoods after war. World Humanitarian Day provides the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the many women humanitarians in MAG who have also overcome that barrier.
Valentina Stivanello, MAG's country director in Sri Lanka, has over fifteen years of experience in the humanitarian sector.
Asked about her route to humanitarianism, Valentina explained: "I travelled extensively as a child and saw other children like myself in a far worse situation. In Delhi, I recall seeing a child without legs moving around on a makeshift board with wheels and it touched me deeply. I knew from a young age that I wanted to somehow help people and that is what has led me to the work I do now. In Sri Lanka, we are helping people to regain access to their land and re-establish their lives and livelihoods."
But Valentina's journey has not been without challenges. "It’s not always easy for women to take a leadership position, especially in certain contexts where women have very traditional roles and limited public visibility."
"I’ve often found myself being closely scrutinized and needing to prove my credentials because I am a woman. But I relish this challenge and am confident in my ability to lead without feeling the need to apologize for my gender. I think it’s important for national and international staff to have female role models. Diversity in humanitarian leadership is a key ingredient for success and I believe women can be powerful agents of change in humanitarian settings.”
Another powerful agent for change in MAG is Delia Sandra Maphosa, our Community Liaison Team Leader in Zimbabwe.
Delia was driven to humanitarianism because of her desire to "emancipate communities plagued by landmines." She has worked with MAG since 2017.
"MAG's work not only strives to save lives through landmine clearance and by promoting the adoption of safe behaviors, but it also plays a pivotal role in community development," she explains.
Asked about her favorite moment with MAG, Delia remembers with great pride her work with schools in the Mudzi district, “communicating safe behaviors to children and working through literacy challenges in the schools to make sure everyone had access to our messages."
Delia's colleague in Cambodia, Phann Ling, a deputy team leader in Ratanak Kiri, has been with MAG for 15 years.
As a humanitarian, Phann is motivated by the opportunity to help save lives and free people in her community from the fear of death and injury. But the work can be hard, she explains:
"We face many challenges, but our teams keep doing the best work we can do. The more unexploded bombs we remove, the more people we save, the more safe land we release, the more livelihoods we can improve."
The work is empowering, Phann adds. "I feel so happy that now I can improve my family's life for the better and I can send my children to school... With this job, my team and I can fulfill our aspirations for the future, like building homes and increasing our family's well-being."
MAG works with hundreds of inspiring women humanitarians and the situations they face varies widely from country to country. But the one thing that is universal to all of them is their commitment to helping MAG achieve its mission of saving lives and building safer futures, and contributing to making as many countries as possible landmine free by 2025.