2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: East Asia and Pacific--Empowering Women for Safer Communities

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: At the Laos Spirit of Soccer tournament, a sign in the background says 'Don't play with UXO, play football!' Incorporating play into risk education is an effective way to teach children.  © Photo courtesy of the Department of State.

In many communities across Southeast Asia, where remnants of the Vietnam War continue to threaten the population, a soccer ball is saving lives.

In February 2015, Spirit of Soccer, one of many U.S.-funded partner organizations working around the globe to clear UXO, prevent injuries, and assist survivors, held the first-ever Women’s Mine Risk Education Workshop in Laos’ Xieng Khouang Province. The workshop brought together 40 women from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to participate in the five-day train-the-trainer program, combining intensive instruction about common types of landmines and UXO with soccer drills, coaching tips, education, and empowerment.

Most of the participants were teachers, soccer coaches, and instructors for local nongovernmental organizations who work with children that are at daily risk from the millions of unexploded bombs and landmines still littering Southeast Asia. At the end of the workshop, the new coaches led a soccer festival for 200 local Lao girls, who celebrated by playing an intense soccer match.

Women represent more than half the world’s talent and potential. Thus it is not only important, but also fitting, that women around the world are enabled to develop creative ways to educate children of the dangers and risks of mines and UXO. These women now have an additional tool to teach children how to stay safe and have fun at the same.