Good evening. Thank you, Marcus Cammack and Jamie. I would like to start by thanking National Geographic and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for inviting me to address this private screening of the documentary “Into the Fire” in honor of International Women’s Day.

Please allow me to set the tone for this evening by telling two women’s stories.

Julienne PayPay is a single mother who worked in the coffee fields of DRC’s eastern Lake Kivu region, where she stepped on a hidden landmine and lost her leg. After a hard recovery, she received a prosthetic leg from the U.S.-funded Polus Center and is being trained as a prosthetic technician at the clinic in order to support her community.

Navirethan Sujitha’s Sri Lankan village was heavily shelled and overrun by the military, forcing her and her family into a camp. After more than a year, she returned home.  In 2010, she joined HALO Trust to clear landmines from her own village.  She is the sole breadwinner of her family, and her salary supports her, her mother, her daughter, and her niece.

These are only two examples of the thousands of women who have been affected by war, suffered often terrible tragedies, and yet found hope and strength by helping their communities recover through humanitarian mine action.

As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Programs and Operations in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, I oversee the Department’s Humanitarian Mine Action programs and the Women, Peace, and Security efforts within the Bureau. To us, this is a natural intersection.

The U.S. National Security Strategy and the State-USAID Joint Strategic Plan assert women’s important roles in achieving U.S. peace and prosperity goals. In 2017, President Trump went a step further when he signed the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act, making the U.S. the first government in the world with a comprehensive law on WPS.

On June 11, 2019, the White House submitted the U.S. Strategy on WPS to Congress. Its strategic objectives focus on women’s participation and safety in building lasting and sustainable peace and prioritizes enhancing U.S. and partner capacity to advance WPS Strategy goals.

Amongst its four lines of effort, it calls for “U.S. international programs to improve outcomes in equality for, and the empowerment of, women” and to “encourage partner governments to adopt policies, develop plans, and build capacity to improve the meaningful participation of women in processes connected to peace and security and decision-making institutions.”

The United States, through the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, is a strong and historic partner for affected states and a leader in donor assistance for Conventional Weapons Destruction, including humanitarian demining. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $3.7 billion in assistance for such efforts in over 100 countries.  In 2019, the United States had active CWD programs in 58 countries, spanning Africa, the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

Our mine action programs are implemented by various NGOs, including MAG, in which women participate as deminers or are employed to deliver mine risk education to affected communities.

As part of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action grants, we require our implementing partners to follow guidelines laid out in the International Mine Action Standards. These guidelines require the consideration of gender balance in HMA.

For example, since 2015, PM has funded two female demining teams (approx. $1,950,000 to NPA) in Tajikistan; and since 2011, PM has funded approximately 23 female demining teams (approx. $26,540,000 to HALO; MAG; DASH; and DDG) in Sri Lanka. These teams are still deployed today.

My colleagues at the Department of State and I are proud to be part of this global partnership to empower women to be the solution to heal the scars of the wars in their communities.

I look forward to the film and seeing the impact Hana has on her community. Thank you for the opportunity to address this event.


U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future